Solicitors’ Delay in preparing a Will – When is it Negligent?
The Court of Appeal considered the proper interpretation of an exoneration clause contained in a will to relieve the trustees under trusts set out in the will of personal liability in respect of certain breaches of duty by them. The Appellant (Mr Barnsley) argued that (1) the exoneration clause had no application in respect of a breach of the self-dealing rule; (2) the exoneration clause did not apply because the respondent had not acted “in the professed execution of the trusts and powers” of the will; and (3) the respondent could not rely on the exoneration clause because he had engaged in “wilful and individual fraud or wrongdoing”. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
The High Court granted summary judgment to the trustees of Boris Berezovsky’s (“the Deceased”) insolvent estate finding that Ms Gorbunova, the Deceased’s former long-term partner, had no real prospect of successfully contending that a litigation deed (signed by the Deceased) and/or a litigation agreement (signed by the Deceased and countersigned by Ms Gorbunova) had created a trust of money (in her favour). Both documents concerned monies payable to the Deceased pursuant to a settlement reached with the family of his business partner, Arkady Patarkatsishvili (also deceased). These monies were largely payable after the Deceased’s death and so were paid out to Grant Thornton UK LLP, the Trustees of his estate. Mr Justice Arnold held that neither the wording of the litigation deed nor the litigation agreement evidenced an intention on the Deceased’s part to create a trust.
The High Court has held that a law firm who failed to deliver estate accounts must pay the beneficiaries’ costs. Mr Justice Matthews noted that whilst a breach of duty by the Defendants in failing to provide information to beneficiaries did not necessarily justify an adverse cost order, in this case “there had been a long and egregious refusal to engage at all with the claimants” and that the refusal as far as he could see was “quite unwarranted”.
The High Court has approved a distribution from the estate of the late Jimmy Saville in satisfaction of claims made by the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by him.
The High Court has overturned a will made by a physically and mentally impaired man in favour of his long-term professional carer and landlord on the grounds of want of knowledge and approval. Mr Justice Cooke held that the will was duly executed (the Claimants had sought to argue that the witnesses who had positively affirmed that they had been present together when the will was executed should be disbelieved), and that the Deceased had capacity, but that he had been vulnerable and suggestible and the evidence that he had understood the will came only from the carer/landlord and was self-serving.
The High Court was asked to consider an application for an order in relation to estate monies which had allegedly been wrongly paid out by Ms Robinson, the administrator of the Deceased’s estate, in breach of an undertaking given to the court earlier in the proceedings “not to dispose of or distribute any part of the Estate of Cynthia Maria Lyons which she has received or which she is entitled to collect in and receive in her capacity as Administratix of the Estate of Cynthia Maria-Lyons until further order”. The monies were largely comprised of sums paid over to a conveyancing firm which had subsequently gone onto liquidation. Mr Master Matthews held that Ms Matthews had acted in breach of the undertaking noting that whether she knew that paying out the monies was in breach of the undertaking was irrelevant.
The Court of Appeal has held that the UK assets of a Jersey domiciled woman left to the Coulter Trust, a charitable trust established under and subject to Jersey law, are liable to UK inheritance tax. The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision in Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Inc v Inland Revenue Commissioners  that the phrase “trust established for charitable purposes only” in the Income Tax Act 1918 S.37 contained an implicit limitation that it only included trusts governed by UK law and subject to the jurisdiction of the UK courts.
Should you wish to discuss a disputed Will or Trust, please do not hesitate to contact our Wills, Trusts and Inheritance Disputes team.
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