Judge Encourages Probate Mediation Over Legal Proceedings

Contentious probate cases are often highly charged and draining, both emotionally and financially.

Given the fact that disputes often involve family members, loved ones or people clients know well, legal clashes can often be highly charged.

During the recent Weisz V Weisz & Ors inheritance dispute, a High Court Judge struggled to comprehend the £74,000 costs accrued for the one-day hearing.

Judge Francis J, shone a mirror on the emotive world of disputed inheritances insisting the personal attachment involved in the case can encourage the heart to rule the head. He claimed that treating family issues with a ‘commercial’ mindset could reduce the amount of money spent during legal proceedings.

The judge further intimated that private family dispute resolution of mediation could help avoid bitter disputes and costly legal battles.

Francis J, the presiding High Court Judge, commented:

“The claimant’s costs – and this is just for today and not the claim overall – are just over £18,000. The costs of the third and fourth defendants, who are two of the children of the deceased, are £37,880. Remarkably, I am told that the executors of the estate do not even know what their costs of today are, and I should say that if any of the lawyers in this court appear in front of me again not knowing what their costs are for the application in front of me, I will have a lot more to say about it than I have done today.

“But, if I take the executors’ costs as being the same as the claimant’s (and I note that the claimant has instructed – I hope I can say this without any disrespect – much less expensive solicitors than the third and fourth defendants), then that means that the overall costs of today are in the order of £74,000.

“It cannot be proportionate for so much money to be spent on this issue and it is very sad indeed that the parties have been unable to settle today’s application. If this were a commercial deal rather than a family row, they would not have spent this amount of money on this litigation because it would not be commercially sensible to do so, and the only way they are going to settle this litigation – whether it be next week or some time next year – rather than fight the case, the only way they are going to do so is by standing back and taking a commercial view, on advice’.”

Should alternative resolution pathways be encouraged before legal proceedings take place?

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