Probate Costs

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    Cases on the validity of Wills are often reported in the press for their headline grabbing facts (and the amounts of money involved).

    Following the ‘Chinese restaurant’ case earlier this year the ‘Conservative party’ case is one of the latest to reach the courts.

    In Kostic v Chaplin [2007] EWHC 2298 (Ch) two Wills were made in 1988 and 1989 by the testator, who died on October 2005. He left his entire £8m estate to the Conservative Party Association. An earlier 1974 Will left the estate to his only son (the claimant) who disputed the validity of the later Wills. It was common ground that from the mid-1980s the testator suffered from a serious and untreated delusional disorder, a feature of which was he thought there was an international conspiracy of dark forces against him in which members of his family implicated.

    The court held it was clear that in 1988 and 1989 the testator had been unable to form a proper appreciation of his son’s claims upon his estate, his natural affection for whom had been distorted by his mental illness to the extent that he was wholly unable to dispose of his property in the way he would have done if of sound mind. The court therefore pronounced against the 1988 and 1989 Wills and granted probate of the 1974 Will.

    In the later hearing on costs [2007] EWHC 2909, the court ruled that the Conservative Party had been fully justified in investigating the issue of the testator’s testamentary capacity once the son’s challenge to the validity of his father’s will had been advanced on a formal basis. The Party’s costs should therefore be paid out of the estate (at least down to the stage where a reasonable assessment of the merits of the son’s claim could be made). In so deciding the court applied an exception to the normal rule (that costs follow the event) namely where a person who made a Will or persons interested in residue had been the cause of litigation and circumstances led, reasonably, to an investigation of the matter, costs could be left to be borne by those who had incurred them.

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    Matt Walkden Will Writer

    About Matt Walkden

    I am a Professional Will Writer and I offer a small number of other products that complement my Will Writing such as Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPA’s), Fixed Price Estate Administration, often called Probate and some Property Products such as changing a family home from Joint owners to Tenants in Common.

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