Landmark costs order in weak challenge to will ~ DNDLAW Probate Solicitors


Weak challenges to wills are likely to be penalised with stiff costs orders after a High Court judge slapped the illegitimate child of a millionaire with a £65,000 bill. 
Ruth Simmons, the daughter of the businessman Ken Jordon, claimed that his recent will was invalid for lack of capacity, knowledge and approval and undue influence.
She also alleged a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act against Jordon’s estate, which he left entirely to his partner, Bernice Elliott.
The High Court heard that Simmonds entered a caveat against the estate to prevent the executor from obtaining a grant of probate and raised various challenges to the will. However, she took no steps to bring an actual claim and after many years and significant costs the executor issued proceedings to prove the will in October 2014.
Instead of raising a will challenge as a defence, Simmons relied on the technical defence of forcing the executor to prove the will, a process that allowed her to cross-examine the attesting witness.
At trial last December 2015, Judge Murray ruled that there was nothing to suggest the will was not valid and found in favour of Elliott.
A “no costs rule” normally applies in that type of proceeding – unless it can be shown that the defendant had no reasonable grounds for opposing the will. Elliott’s law firm, Gardner Leader, argued that Simmons had acted unreasonably in raising a challenge against the will and the judge agreed, handing down the costs order in a judgment given in April but only made public yesterday.
Tara McInnes, Elliott’s solicitor, said that the ruling had “sent a stark warning to the public and legal profession that if you wish to dispute a will, you must be prepared to prove that you have good reason for opposing it or be prepared to pick up the legal costs”.
DNDLAW Solicitors 

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