Solicitors’ Delay in preparing a Will – When is it Negligent?
Wooldridge v Wooldridge 
The Central London County Court have dismissed a claim bought pursuant to the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act) by the Deceased’s wife, Thandi Wooldridge, for further financial provision. Ms Wooldridge inherited the family estate worth approximately £4.25 million and a further £1.6 million in other assets but sought to argue that she had an annual expenditure need of £372,000 and such financial provision was not sufficient. The Defendants to the claim, the Deceased’s two sons, argued that such a claim was entirely disproportionate and that there was only “a finite pot” of money available. Her Honour Judge Karen Walden-Smith held that “the Will does make reasonable provision for [Ms Wooldridge] and the estate does not have the liquidity which would enable [Ms Wooldridge] to recover that which she seeks without the need to sell partnership assets, and possibly sell shares in the company, which would be significantly adverse to the interests of [the Deceased’s First Son] and would, in addition, most likely be adverse to the interests of [the Deceased’s Second Son”]. [Ms Wooldridge] has enough.” Read more about this case.
Singha v Heer 
The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the court of first instance that letters written between former business partners did not amount to declarations of trust entitling one of the partners to the full beneficial interest in one of the partnership properties. The letters relied on by the Claimant referred to his partner holding the property “on trust” for him but this was not sufficient to amount to a full declaration of trust. The Court ruled that each partner held a 50% share in the property. Whilst this case arises from the breakdown in a business partnership, the same legal principles would apply to unmarried couples serving as a reminder that their intentions about jointly owned property should be set out clearly in writing.
Andrew Erlam & Ors v (1) Mohammed Lutfur Rahman (a bankrupt) (2) Ayesha Khatun Farid 
The High Court has rejected a claim that a wife held a beneficial interest in a buy-to-let property, the subject of a charging order, as she had failed on the balance of probabilities to prove that she had made any contribution to the purchase price under resulting trust principles. Chief Master Marsh said that the Claimant was “a thoroughly unsatisfactory and unreliable witness” who was “willing to alter and extend her case when challenged”.
Kebbeh v Farmer & Ors 
The High Court has dismissed a claim for financial provision from a deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”) because it did not have jurisdiction to hear a claim in circumstances whereby the deceased had died with a domicile of choice in Gambia. A claim may only be made under the Act in the case of a person who "dies domiciled in England and Wales” (Section 1 (1)).
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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