Daughter wins legal battle to administer mother’s estate

A daughter has been given permission to administer her mother’s estate after a legal battle with a professional executor ended with the High Court refusing their application to appeal.

Leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell was instructed by the client in relation to her mother’s estate, who wrote a will in 2011 and passed away in 2018. The will was held by law firm WAG Davidson & Co.

The deceased left her property to her grandson, and the rest of her estate to her daughter; the net estate was valued at around £832,000.

Although WAG Davidson were appointed in the will as executors, estimating their bill to come in at around £10,000, WAG Davidson also had no prior relation to the client’s mother aside from writing her will, or any subsequent dealings with her. The client also felt the estate was simple enough to administer herself and asked WAG Davidson to step down as executors.

WAG Davidson refused to step down despite formal complaints and a letter of claim from Irwin Mitchell, unfortunately escalating to a lengthy court battle. The firm accused the client of fraud, despite her taking out a formal valuation of her late mother’s property, and made false allegations about the client’s relationship with her mother.

At the final hearing Master Kaye ordered the removal of WAG Davidson as the executors of the estate, and for the client and her son to be appointed as joint personal representatives. Master Kaye commented that:

“[WAG Davidson] seems to have descended into the ring to engage on a blow-by-blow basis with the claimant, at a time she was suffering from grief arising from the recent death of her mother.”

Master Kaye also commented in the judgment:

“The appellants should, quite frankly, not have adopted the position they did and they have continued, quite disproportionately in my view, to seek to cling on to office when it is perfectly obvious that they should not do so.”

WAG Davidson had two requests to appeal refused by Master Kaye and the High Court respectively; at an oral hearing in December 2020, Mr Justice Fraser dismissed their appeal.

Seven months after the first hearing and over two years since her mother’s death, the client is now finally able to get a Grant of Probate in place and move on with her life. WAG Davidson has also been ordered to pay £25,000 in legal fees.

Heather Roberts, the lawyer acting for the claimant said:

“This was an extraordinary case from the outset, and one we were very pleased to be able to give our client a happy conclusion to.

“It would have been simple for the professional executors to have stepped down at our client’s request, yet instead of complying they decided to bitterly fight her at every turn.

“Everyone has the right to remove a nominated professional executor if they so wish, but it is rare to see a professional firm push back as hard as they did, let alone the very serious false accusations of fraud they put our client through.

“We’re delighted to have been able to help our client win their case when she should have been settling their mother’s estate, and we will support them as they can finally begin to move on.”

Today's Wills and Probate