‘Explore options’ in inheritance disputes following high profile case

Napthens - January 29th 2018

An expert in Wills disputes has urged parties to be prepared to explore all options, following a high-profile case which saw a son ‘cut out’ of his father’s Will.

In the case of James v James, the farmer’s son claimed he dedicated his entire working life to his father’s business, in return for the ‘promise’ of hundreds of acres of land.

However, when his father died, he found he was left nothing in the Will, with his mother and sisters instead left everything.

Following a three-year legal battle, the High Court has now ruled that the father did not promise to leave any land to his son and that his father’s Will was valid.

Stephanie Kerr, solicitor in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at regional law firm Napthens, warns that the case highlights the need for parties to consider if there is a legal basis for multiple claims to be made.

She explained: “Inheritance disputes often involve a number of individuals, a complex family history and a range of legal issues which can give rise to more than one type of claim against an estate.

“Litigation can be a lengthy process, and this case took more than three years from court proceedings being issued to the trial, potentially as a result of the complexity of the issues involved and the number of parties and witnesses.

“It isn’t known if mediation was explored in this case, but it’s important to note that mediation can be a very useful tool to narrow the issues between the parties or settle the dispute entirely, particularly as parties can agree a range of settlement options in a mediation which the Court may not have the power to order.

Trying to find common ground can be difficult in such a personal and sensitive situation but is important to remember in inheritance disputes.”