Case Study – Contested Probate Dispute
24 March, 2021
Storrar Cowdry Solicitor who dealt with the case: Kate Naylor; Litigation Partner
Our clients were the Executors of their late Uncles’ will (the Will). The Defendant was the daughter of a friend of the Deceased and she claimed that the Deceased had made a will leaving everything to her. The family were unaware that she had anything other than a passing acquaintance with the Deceased and her assertions were not only contrary to what the Deceased had himself indicated to the family but were contrary to what he had said in the Will.
The Defendant entered a Caveat and then an Appearance in the Deceased’s estate which prevented the Executors from administering their Uncle’s estate in accordance with his wishes. Consequently a probate action was commenced to remove the caveat.
The Defendant went onto allege that our clients unduly influenced the Deceased in making the Will and/or that he lacked capacity to make the Will and/or that the Will was a forgery. The Defendant then, during the course of proceedings produced a typed will that she alleged that the Deceased had executed, and which appointed her as his executor and left his estate to her.
The Defendant’s challenge to the Deceased’s Will prevented the Deceased’s wishes from being carried out. A lengthy court case resulted which also had a significant emotional impact upon the Deceased’s family.
How Storrar Cowdry helped
It was not possible to have a reasoned discussion with the Defendant and therefore the court’s assistance was required. Kate Naylor assisted and guided the clients through the court process, assisted with the engagement of the expert witnesses, advised on costs and cost protection and assisted in gathering and collecting the substantial amount of evidence to prepare the case for trial.
Expert evidence concluded that the will produced by the Defendant was not signed by the Deceased, but was a simulation of his signature. Expert evidence concluded in favour of the Will and in favour of the Deceased having capacity to execute it. There was no evidence to support the allegation of undue influence. The judge at trial ruled in favour for pronouncement of the Will and against the will that had been put forward by the Defendant. The judge also ordered that the Defendant pay our clients’ costs and made a substantial interim award of costs.
Kate Naylor is a partner in the Litigation Department who routinely deals with contested probate and Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 matters. To find out more about her – see her profile.