The Importance of Considering Settlement in 1975 Act Disputes
When someone makes a claim in civil litigation, all parties are urged to consider mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Recently, in the 2020 case of Reynolds v Reynolds, a woman (the Defendant) was fighting a claim under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 and was penalised heavily due to not engaging in ADR.
The Claimant had proposed mediation during proceedings as a way to reach early resolution, but the Defendant refused to engage in this. As a result, the trial took place in January 2020 and the Claimant was awarded an additional share in the Estate and was also awarded her costs on an indemnity basis. This was because the Claimant’s previous part 36 offer to settle to dispute, had been rejected and was lower than what the Court had awarded at trial. The Judge, Recorder Williamson QC, also ordered an interim payment of costs in the sum of £60,000.00, as well as an increased rate of interest for assessing costs.
The Judge heavily criticised how the Defendant had approached the case, given the total Estate being valued at £193,000.00 (a relatively low value claim). He went on to criticise how the Defendant had disregarded the possibility of settling the case outside of Court.
The case of Reynolds v Reynolds should act as a harsh reminder to parties in Contentious Probate claims, to consistently consider mediation and other forms of ADR, before reaching a trial. This case demonstrates that there are no clear winners in litigation and judges seem to share the same opinion that cases of this nature should attempt to reach settlement where possible.
If you require advice in relation to a potential, or existing contentious Probate dispute, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our dedicated contested Probate team at Enoch Evans LLP. You can contact us on 01922 720333 (Walsall) and 0121 355 2336 (Sutton Coldfield).