Individuals & families

Inheritance disputes involving adult children

Are adult children entitled to reasonable financial provision from an estate whereby they are not named in the will? The court will consider the individual circumstances of the claimant when deciding whether an adult child has been left reasonable financial provision. If an adult able-bodied child's only argument is that he is "badly off", he is unlikely to be successful in his claim. Some guidance has been given by several recent cases.

Contesting a will - charitable legacies

Historically courts have taken a robust approach to protecting gifts contained in wills for the benefit of a charity. A number of recent cases suggest a change of approach towards charities. A notable case, which reflects these changing attitudes is the case of Gill and Woodall [2010]. However, it has been made clear by the court that the decision should not be seen as a green light to disappointed beneficiaries.

Can an executor of a will be removed?

If an executor has been appointed under the terms of a deceased’s will it may be possible to remove the executor even if they have not acted inappropriately. In order to be successful with such a claim, the court will expect there to be ‘special circumstances’ so as to allow it to consider using its discretion to remove the executor. The recent case of Khan v Crossland [2011] highlights the court’s approach to ‘special circumstances’.

Who's liable for mud on the road?

Three recent road accidents in Herefordshire caused by mud on the road prompted the temporary closure of A-roads and an announcement from West Mercia Police that they would be monitoring excessive mud on public highways. This has been a particularly bad year as the wet weather has meant that mud on public roads has been an unfortunate, but regular, by product of farm operations. The NFU has released a recent briefing note for farmers on their legal liabilities relating to mud on the roads which we have summarised.

Know your building regulations when buying or selling property

Hannah Carey, head of the conveyancing team at Midland law firm Wright Hassall, stresses how important it is to be aware of building regulations when buying or selling a property. “Specialist knowledge of building regulations and their enforcement is an essential part of transferring a home. Conveyancers have a professional duty to ensure that necessary building regulations have been obtained."

Valuation, inspection or survey?

The purchase of a property is likely to be the most important financial transaction you will enter into. There is nothing that can be done about any defects that you may discover after exchanging contracts or completing the transaction so it therefore essential that you have the property thoroughly checked out by an expert. There are various types of inspections that you can obtain which are outlined below.

New divorce consultation hoped to bring clarity

It is hoped that a new consultation launched by the Law Commission will bring clarity to the ‘opaque area of the law’ surrounding divorce settlements, according to a Midland legal expert. As it stands, the law gives no clear guidance on what is considered a fair financial outcome making it difficult for lawyers to predict how a judge might determine a fair or reasonable division of assets.

The difficulty with alleging undue influence in probate matters

The recent cases of Hubbard, Cowderoy and Wharton have all highlighted the difficulty in challenging a will based upon the allegation of undue influence. From an analysis of these cases it is clear that suspicious circumstances alone are not enough and a claim of undue influence will require strong evidence that actual coercion took place. Examples of where a claim for undue influence in probate actions have been successful are few and far between.

Unmarried couples and bankruptcy

The recent case of Kernott v Jones has helped to provide some clarity as to how the court decides the level of a co-habitee’s interest in a property where the legal title is held jointly by introducing the concept of fairness into the decision-making process. However, the increasing impact of “fairness” on a court’s decision may only muddy the waters for a Trustee in Bankruptcy when to establish the level of a co-habiting bankrupt’s interest in the property for the purpose of realising that asset in the bankruptcy estate.

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