A man has been told he’s liable to pay costs of £44,000 because of his unreasonable behaviour in a family dispute over his stepfather’s will.
The case involved the stepson and the stepfather’s daughter and son. The stepson had looked after the father’s finances in the last 12 months of his life.
Following the father’s death, the daughter was concerned to discover that the estate was far less valuable than she had anticipated. She issued proceedings to determine who should represent the estate and to seek an account of the money that she suspected was missing.
A personal representative was appointed, to whom the stepson was required to give all documents and records relating to the father’s financial affairs. However, he failed to deliver the relevant documents.
He argued that, as the daughter’s solicitors had not answered emails he had sent to them, he would not cooperate with their requests. After the court made a disclosure order against him, the stepson went on to disclose a number of documents in a piecemeal fashion over a number of months.
The daughter applied in August 2016 for the stepson to be committed but it was not pursued on the day of the hearing in January 2017 as it was accepted that he had substantially complied with the disclosure order by then.
However, the daughter wanted him to pay the costs of the committal application, which were £44,761.20.
The court found in the daughter’s favour. It held that the evidence showed that the stepson had not wished to cooperate and had dragged his feet throughout the dispute. He did not approach the banks for the specific statements until a month after he had been ordered to do so, and he allowed considerable periods of time to pass before chasing up requests.
He had not behaved reasonably and it was appropriate to assess costs at £44,761.20.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.
GRACE & ANOR v BIRNIE (2017)
Ch D (Barling J) 20/01/2017