The Beginning of a New Era for Inheritance Claims?
The High Court in the case of Seals and another v Williams has recently given a ringing endorsement to adversaries in an inheritance dispute taking a pro-active approach by asking the court to make an order for Early Neutral Evaluation of the case. Early Neutral Evaluation is where a judge will review the evidence and pleaded cases at an early stage in the claim process, before giving a non-binding assessment of the relative merits of each parties’ position. Such an assessment provides the parties with an early indication of how the case might go, and should, in theory, then make settlement by negotiation a far more simple affair.
A form of Early Neutral Evaluation has been utilised for quite some time in the Family Courts, but this recent case together with an initiative adopted in the Birmingham and Manchester District Registries of the High Court indicate that there is a good chance that it will soon be rolled out to the other courts dealing with claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, and perhaps even more widely to other types of civil claim.
Mr Justice Norris stated: “The advantage of such a process over mediation itself is that a judge will evaluate the respective parties' cases in a direct way and may well provide an authoritative (albeit provisional) view of the legal issues at the heart of the case and an experienced evaluation of the strength of the evidence available to deploy in addressing those legal issues. The process is particularly useful where the parties have very differing views of the prospect of success and perhaps an inadequate understanding of the risks of litigation itself”.
In most cases the parties to a dispute will have already tried to negotiate, but there will always be disputes where each side are just too far apart in terms of their expectations. Therefore rather than waiting until the day of trial and having spent many thousands of pounds along the way, it makes perfect sense to utilise judicial Early Neutral Evaluation at a much earlier stage, as it is quite likely to bring about a resolution to the dispute, saving considerable trial costs.
Nockolds’ Wills and Trust Disputes team routinely advise and represent individuals with disputes over inheritance, and have an enviable track record in securing clients successful outcomes utilising where appropriate alternative resolution techniques such as negotiation, mediation and neutral evaluation in addition to trial litigation.
For further information on inheritance disputes and to find out how we can help you, please contact our Personal Disputes and Litigation Team on 01279 755777 or get in touch with Daniel Winter, Associate Solicitor.