The Practical Lawyer

Wills, probate and administration

Wills - the commorientes rule

The commorientes rule has been applied by the High Court in a case where step-siblings were locked in a dispute following the death of a husband and wife. This was an unusual case in which the coroner could not determine who had died first - the spouses had died of hypothermia in their home.

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Wills - proprietary estoppel

A couple who own a farming business and related assets have been ordered to pay a lump sum following a failure to leave the farm and farming business to one of their sons (S) in their wills, the High Court has ruled.

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Procedure - contested probate

The parties can be compelled to attend early neutral evaluation (ENE), the Court of Appeal has ruled in an inheritance dispute. A widow had brought a claim under the I(PFD)A 1975 against her late husband's estate.

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Proprietary estoppel – relief

A claimant’s expectation is not determinative of the relief to be granted. In this farming case, the facts are all too familiar: the adult child (L) was one of four children and she brought a claim for proprietary estoppel on the basis of various assurances made to her by her parents over the preceding years. 
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Wills – destruction; rebuttable presumption

A certified copy of a will was admitted to probate, even though a claimant (C) argued that the original was revoked by destruction. 
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Inheritance tax – agricultural relief

The government has issued updated guidance on agricultural relief for inheritance tax.
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Procedure – delays in administration

A claim for costs was made under s50 AJA 1985 in a case where £180,000 in combined legal fees represented nearly half the value of the estate concerned. The probate firm involved was ordered to pay half the claimant’s costs.

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Power of attorney – validity

The powers of attorney in a recent case were granted in the context of a share sale, but private client practitioners will benefit from the clarity given by the court on the validity and execution of a POA.

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Procedure – mental capacity

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 became law on 16 May 2019 and amends the MCA 2005 in relation to certain procedures. Specifically, it amends procedures in accordance with which a person may be deprived of liberty where the person lacks capacity to consent, with a new system for authorising deprivations of liberty in care.

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Probate – beneficial ownership

The claimants sought a declaration that the sale proceeds of a property were held on trust by two defendants as estate administrators. The claim was brought by S’s former wife (W) and her father against her former brother-in-law (R) and R’s wife. There was a third defendant who was the only child of S and W. S died in 2014.

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