Case study: inheritance dispute between brothers in administration of their father’s estate
Our inheritance disputes solicitors recently advised a beneficiary who was unhappy with how his brother was administering their late father’s estate.
Tension within the family
Our client’s (Mr O) parents were both joint tenants on a property that they owned. They divorced but continued on good terms with each other. Mr O’s father wrote a new Will after the divorce, leaving half his share of the property to his two children (our client and his brother) in equal shares.
Mr O did not get along with his brother or mother, and after his father passed away and the estate had to be administered, tensions arose.
Executors unable to apply for the grant of probate
Neither executor named in Mr O’s father’s Will was able to apply for the grant of probate; one had passed away and one was too frail to take responsibility. The grant was then obtained by Mr O’s brother.
Mr O approached us as he was concerned about the lack of transparency in the administration of his father’s estate.
Estate administration information reveals failure by father’s solicitor
Our solicitors wrote to Mr O’s brother, the Personal Representative (PR), asking for the estate accounts, but we did not receive an adequate response. We therefore made an application requiring the PR to provide an inventory and account of the administration of the estate. The application was successful, and the PR was ordered to pay Mr O’s costs.
The PR provided partial estate accounts, claiming that the property passed by survivorship to their mother as the joint tenancy had not been severed. The file that was received from the PR contained a letter from their father’s solicitor saying that they may have failed to take steps to sever the joint tenancy which was necessary to give effect to the terms of their father’s Will.
Protecting our client’s 25% interest in the property
Our team advised there was evidence that the tenancy was severed and our client had a 25% interest in the property. We also requested and received an interim payment on behalf of Mr O regarding undisputed estate funds.
The focus then turned to protecting the estate’s interest in the property. We asked the PR to enter a Form A restriction against the property to achieve this.
The PR took no action to do this and secure the interest of the estate in the property, so we made a court application under Part 64 of the Civil Rules Procedure (CPR) requiring him to enter a Form A restriction against the property.
The case raised interesting questions about a PR’s obligations to provide information to a residuary beneficiary, particularly regarding estate accounts, and the various methods of severing a joint tenancy.