It was recently reported that a widow’s late application claim against her husband’s estate was refused; this is hardly news in itself, but a comment from the judge in court has had significant implications for the executors of estates.
The claim, which was made nearly 17 months after the six-month time limit, was thrown out by Mr Justice Mostyn in the High Court. Justice Mostyn made clear that such cases would continue to be looked on unfavourably without the presence of ‘highly exceptional factors’.
This judgement – against a case that seemingly bore little merit – is being widely accepted; although the claimant argued that she was not made aware of the six-month time limit for application, this does not constitute sufficient grounds for appeal.
Mr Justice Mostyn dismissed the validity of a ‘stand-still’ agreement between the parties. He said that a moratorium would be allowed when appropriate in order for negotiations to take place, but a holding claim should have been issued so that the court could exercise its case management powers.
The judge’s comments indicate that in no future case should a privately agreed moratorium ever count as ‘stopping the clock’ on the need to issue proceedings within the statutory time limit. In other words, should both parties agree that postponing proceedings would be in the best interests of a case, they would not be able to simply make this decision without the court’s consent. Instead, grieving families will have to go to court promptly in order to gain approval.
Justice Mostyn’s obiter words have been labelled as ‘unhelpful’ by critics and will cause difficulty for probate solicitors going forward; they add another hurdle to the probate process where there is an element of disagreement – causing further stress and inconvenience to families during an already difficult time. It is also a potential trap for unwary probate lawyers, and if a “holding” claim has to be issued, there will be a substantial increase in the cost to clients.
Whilst the above case highlights the fact that we are all ultimately ‘under the law’, it also shows the importance of engaging the services of a solicitor promptly after a person’s death. Failing to do so could result in unnecessary further heartache, stress and, perhaps failing to acquire what you are entitled to.
At A M Davies, we pride ourselves on a practical, yet sensitive and caring approach to estate management. With decades of experience, we are able to efficiently administer the wishes of the deceased, whilst instilling our clients with the confidence and comfort they need at a difficult time.
With a clear line of communication, and fully transparent process, our clients are made fully aware of the various time-constraints to be adhered to and other legal implications; this ensures efficient and seamless handling of an estate.
The subject of death is a taboo to many people, who may put off making a will. However, it is vital to do so for your family. At A M Davies we understand peoples’ resistance to taking that initial step to ‘putting your affairs in order’. We offer practical, friendly advice and professional support to ensure that your will is made with minimum fuss and inconvenience; it is often a much quicker and simpler process than you might think!
Whilst executing your loved ones will, we are on hand not only to provide you with timely legal advice and professional expertise but to carefully and sensitively execute your wishes.
For more information regarding our Probate and Estate Administration services, contact us via our webform, or call 01423 779479.