Contentious Trusts and Probate Monthly Round-Up: July 2016

2 August 2016

Lewis v Warner [2016] EWHC 1787 (Ch)

The High Court has upheld a decision that an individual’s maintenance under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“1975 Act”) can extend to an arrangement for full consideration. Audrey Blackwell (the Deceased) had bequeathed her entire estate to Lynn Lewis (the Claimant), her only child. The estate was comprised primarily of the Deceased’s home were she had lived with Thomas Warner (the Defendant) for more than 20 years. Ms Lewis issued a possession claim against Mr Warner who responded by making a claim for provision under the 1975 Act. Mr Warner was financially secure but, primarily as a consequence of ill health, wanted to stay in the Deceased’s house. At first instance, the court held that Mr Warner should be granted an option to have the property transferred to him. Mr Justice Newey said that the court was right to conclude that the Deceased’s will had failed to make reasonable provision for Mr Warner and the court was right to compel Ms Lewis to transfer the house.

Daniel and another v Tee and others [2016] EWHC 1538 (Ch)

The High Court has dismissed a claim for breach of trust bought by two beneficiaries (the Claimants) of a £3.4 million will trust against professional trustees alleging that the trustees had failed to take appropriate care to invest in a properly diversified investment portfolio and had wrongly relied on the advice of professional investment advisers. Mr Richard Spearman QC, sitting as a Deputy Judge, concluded that the Claimants had established some breaches of duty but had failed to prove that they had suffered loss as a result of those breaches. He went on to say that even if the trustees had been liable for breach of trust, section 61 Trustee Act 1925 would likely have applied. The trustees had acted to the best of their abilities and in reliance on what they reasonably believed to be competent professional advice.

Fitzgerald & Ors v Henerty & Ors [2016] EWCA Civ 701

The Court of Appeal has affirmed the decision of the court of first instance that there were no suspicious circumstances in the making of a will such as to put the onus on the propounders of the will to prove affirmatively that the deceased had knowledge and approval of its contents. The claim was bought by the two youngest daughters of a Hillsborough survivor (the Deceased) and their mother (together the Claimants) who originally asserted that the Deceased’s life experiences had left him emotionally damaged and mentally unfit to make a will. The Deceased had excluded the Claimants from his will hours before death. Mr Justice Pelling QC held that the Deceased knew and approved the contents of the will and had capacity. The claimants did not challenge the finding on capacity. The Claimants contended that in concluding there were no suspicious circumstances, and in failing to take into account material considerations, the Mr Justice Pelling QC reached a conclusion not open to him and submitted that the Court of Appeal should find suspicious circumstances which cannot be dispelled. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

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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