Contentious Trusts and Probate Round-Up: November 2017

30 November 2017

Vucicevic & Another v Aleksic & Others [2017]

The High Court has ruled on the construction of a handwritten will. The testator, Mr Veljiko Aleksic was born in Montenegro on 19 March 1923, arriving in England shortly after the Second World War where he died on 24 October 2014. Mr Aleksic had houses in London and Cardiff and land in Montenegro (co-owned with two of his brothers). His will was undated and contained no attestation clause (one of the two attesting witnesses consequently made an affadivit attesting due execution to have taken place towards the end of 2012). The will made no express provision for the appointment of an executor but appointed a senior bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church to “be in charge”. The Probate Registry declined to accept that the bishop had been appointed as an executor. There was no previous will.  

The will contained numerous spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and misplaced punctuation. Mr Justice Matthews said “Bad English can still make a good will, as long as the testator's meaning can be understood”. He relied on multiple sources of evidence, including a forensic document examiner and an expert in the law of Montenegro, to make sense of ambiguous words phrases and establish what the testator intended.

Crociani & Ors v Crociani & Ors

The Jersey Royal Court has found in favour of the reconstitution of a Bahamian trust fund expected to worth in the region of $200 million. The trust was settled in 1987 by Edoarda Vesel Crociani for the benefit of her two daughters, Camilla and Cristiana. Central to the proceedings was the allegation that the trustees had exercised powers to the benefit of Edoarda despite her apparent exclusion from benefit under the trust. Edoarda was said to favour Cristiana over Camilla who, along with her minor daughters, successful pursued the current and former trustees for various breaches of trust.

Court of Protection Rules 2017

As of 1 December 2017, the Court of Protection Rules 2017 came into force. They revoke the Court of Protection Rules 2007 (the 2007 Rules) and the amendments made to the by the Court of Protection (Amendment) Rules of 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2017 and replace them with a consolidated set of rules as well as introducing several new rules.

Christodoulides v Marcou [2017]

The High Court has refused a permission to appeal application concerning a decision of the central London County Court that a will had been procured by the fraudulent calumny of the defendant. In his judgment Mr Justice Morgan clearly set out the requirements for a fraudulent calumny claim: "It seems to me that, to succeed on this plea, [the potential beneficiary] must satisfy the following to a sufficient degree; namely, i) that [the individual procuring the fraudulent calumny] made a false representation ii) to [the testator] iii) about [the potential beneficiary's] character iv) for the purpose of inducing [the testator] to alter [his/her] testamentary dispositions and v) that [the individual procuring the fraudulent calumny] made such a representation knowing it to be untrue or being reckless as to its truth and vi) that the ... Will was made only because of the fraudulent calumny."

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