This case concerned a dispute in relation to the proper distribution of the proceeds of sale of the deceased’s property pursuant to certain Wills. The Claimant, a descendant of a separate branch of the family, maintained that she was entitled to receive a share of the proceeds of the sale of the property, whereas the Defendants, being the children and Executors of the deceased, disputed that entitlement. The interpretation of the various Wills was complex and uncertain, and there were essentially two key questions to be considered. Firstly, on what trusts did the deceased and his wife hold the property pursuant to the terms of the grandmother’s handwritten Will, and therefore how should the proceeds of the sale of the property be prima facie distributed. Secondly whether, and if so how, pursuant to the doctrine of mutual Wills (or else some sort of trust) did the deceased’s Will and a Will drafted in similar terms by the deceased’s sister-in-law, impact on the distribution.
Depending on the interpretation of the Wills, it could be argued that the deceased on the clients’ case owned 100% of the proceeds of sale of the property, or, on the Claimant’s case, owned 25% of the proceeds of sale. In determining the interpretation of these Wills as above, and then considering whether or not the doctrine of mutual Wills or some sort of trust applied, the Claimant’s interest varied between zero and 12.5% of the deceased’s share of the proceeds. Alternatively, if the deceased was found to only have a 25% share of the property, the Claimant’s interest was limited to 3.25% of the proceeds. Since the outcome for either side could be zero, and the likely interpretation of the Wills was far from clear, the litigation risk for both sides was quite considerable. Accordingly a mediation was arranged to attempt to settle the matter, such as to buy certainty and minimise the costs. A settlement was reached which resulted in the Claimant being paid the sum of £55,000.