Avoiding a Protracted Dispute about an Inheritance
Our clients were the beneficiaries under a will which was amended by a series of documents called codicils. The executors of an estate sought to ignore the contents of the third codicil and alleged that the deceased had signed this document as a result of the undue influence that our client had allegedly exerted on the testator before he died.
In order to protect our client’s position we immediately enter a so-called caveat against the will to prevent the executors from applying for probate and distributing the estate without reference to the third codicil. The executors claimed to be able to ignore the third codicil because there is a legal presumption of undue influence but this assertion was fundamentally incorrect and we pointed out the error in correspondence with the executors’ solicitor. More pressure was applied to the executors by threatening to apply to court for an order that they must abide by the deceased’s wishes and as a result of this the executors withdrew their unfounded allegations of undue influence.
The executors were evidently unhappy about forced to back down and a further dispute developed regarding the first codicil to the will which contained a specific gift to our client. In order to resolve this second dispute as quickly as possible and without the need to apply to court, we made a so-called Part 36 offer. If the executors had rejected this offer and had achieved a less favourable outcome at the conclusion of a trial to determine the dispute then they could have been ordered to pay a higher proportion of our client’s legal costs.
The nature of the Part 36 offer again had the effect of applying further pressure to the executors and it was accepted. A dispute which would otherwise have taken over a year to resolve in court was resolved through robust correspondence pointing out the legal defects in the executors’ case, the application for a caveat against the will and a well-judged settlement offer.