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Will dispute could result in high costs order

A woman from Berkshire who disputed her father’s will may face legal costs higher than  the amount she was originally left.

The woman, an only child, was left £100,000 by her father on his death. The majority of his £630,000 estate, however, went to his four siblings, with whom the daughter had a relationship of “of mutual estrangement and immense suspicion”. She alleged that the two of his sisters had brought undue pressure to bear on her father and made him sign a will they had drawn up themselves which he had not fully understood or approved.

Disputing the will at a hearing in 2013, the daughter told a court that her father had always been generous to her and had promised that she would inherit his estate. But she lost the case and the will was ‘admitted to probate’ (gained legal approval). Her father’s family then sought compensatory (‘indemnity’) costs from her, rather than simply seeking payment of their “considerable” but unspecified legal costs from the estate, because the daughter had made claims of misconduct against her father’s family.

A judge at the Chancery Division of the High Court made a costs award against the daughter, but did not clarify whether or not her liability was limited to the sum she had inherited from her father. She insisted that she could not afford to pay the sums ordered.

The case returned to court and once again went against the daughter. A judge ruled that her liability was indeed not limited to the £100,000 she had inherited from her late father. As a result, said the Judge, she may have to sell other assets, including her home, to meet the costs.

Read the original ruling here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    She lost. If she does not pay the costs to the limit of her means – including the equity in her home – her relations, whom she tried to deprive of their inheritance, will have to meet the cost of efending what is rightfully theirs. Justice has been done here.

  2. JamesB says:

    Inheritance is a nightmare. An aging population is a nightmare. Paying my father’s care bills indefinitely to be called names is a nightmare. Having your children taken away from you is a nightmare and being expected to pay for it is a nightmare. The society we have created is not quite a nightmare, but I think the tories need to scrap the abolition of inheritance tax and put the money towards paying for old people who can no longer look after themselves’ care. The nhs is why they don’t have health insurance, then they are expected to pay as it is called social care, when it is not, it is for them to be able to survive as they can’t move – i.e. motor neurones, they pay for their care. The squeezed middle get squeezed unfairly. Either have communism or a fairer society. Either be honest and scrap the nhs or have a proper nhs, not telling people the support isn’t there is out of order.

  3. Andrew says:

    James – I think if you read the judgment you will find that this is off the point. The deceased in this case died without going into paid residential care.

  4. JamesB says:

    My father is in residential care with motor neurones and has to pay for it and I do also. The point is that does not seem fair, in the same way as this woman feels. It does seem to me that the inheritance laws seem to benefit the very wealthy and should either be fairer or scrapped or communism, or we have a fairer nhs. What is not fair is the smoke and mirrors pretending we have a fair system when we do not.

    Children who do not inherit very often do not have a fair shot at the property ladder no matter how hard they work. The odds are stacked against them. They are priced out by people who inherit or foreign investors. My point being, need to have a fairer system rather than the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Not giving poor people a fair chance is not good for society, I would rather we had a more clear honest and open debate about what happens rather than name calling. Which is what the original post and your reply tended towards and which is why I posted and I do not think is off the point.

  5. JamesB says:

    Also, the divorce laws in this jurisdiction has driven up the cost of property and the number of single of people both young and old the numbers of single people looking for housing has been rising is rising and is at record numbers, this is not mostly aging population, or immigration, it is mostly because of the divorce law makes living together under the law difficult and if there is a co habitation bill as you want (i.e. without pre nups) then it will make it even worse.

  6. JamesB says:

    More council properties, also please, also please include single people without children, also scrap right to buy please, as that also pushes up property prices.

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