Lawyer urges out of court action after £850k court case exhausts estate

24 May 2022

A leading Midlands lawyer has urged people to try and resolve inheritance disputes out of court – as three brothers were warned they risk squandering their mother’s entire £850,000 estate on legal fees.

Georgia Stott, Associate in the Higgs LLP contentious probate team, said that litigation can be an expensive and perilous course of action.

The warning comes as a judge told brothers Remo, Nino and David Rea they risk blowing their entire inheritance on lawyers’ fees as the trio launch a fourth court battle against their sister over their late mother’s estate.

Georgia said: “Litigation can be a risky business as it is hard to predict how the other party or parties will respond. 

“This is why we always recommend getting lawyers involved from the outset. That said, we recognise that, as in this case, if you’re not careful your costs can end up being very high. At all times it is important to bear in mind proportionality.

“The courts strongly encourage parties to try and resolve disputes without recourse to the courts. This isn’t always possible but, in our experience, the vast majority of cases can be settled by way of correspondence, either with or without mediation. 

“The costs of resolving a matter without recourse to the courts are significantly less and you have much more control over them, as well as allowing for more creative solutions.”

Remo, Nino and David allege they were cut out of the will because their sister, Rita, had turned their mother against them by wrongly persuading her that they didn’t care for her.

The trio have lost two High Court battles, but were successful in a third Court of Appeal attempt, meaning it will now go before a fourth hearing.

Speaking at the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison said: “The outcome is a tragedy for the whole family. The tangible benefits deriving from the relatively modest estate will have been seriously depleted by the costs of the original trial and the appeal.

“A further trial may well exhaust them completely.”

Though Georgia called for out of court mediation, she did accept that sometimes there was no other solution.

“Sometimes court action is inevitable,” she said.  “We will always strive to give clients fair fee estimates for each stage so that they’re not left with a nasty surprise at the end. 

“We also give regular updates as to the risks associated with litigation and assist clients in weighing up the pros and cons of the various options available to them.

“A vast number of cases will also be suitable for funding from providers who specialise in Contentious Trusts and Probate disputes. They can offer various products to advance monies to clients to assist them with their ongoing costs and with a competitive interest rate. 

“This can, for some clients, be the difference between being able to pursue a matter and being forced to settle for an outcome that they might not have done, had they had the funds to pursue the matter. 

“It can also assist executors who find themselves embroiled in a dispute due to no fault of their own, but without access to estate funds.”

The Rea case will now go back to the High Court for a fresh trial unless the siblings are able to settle their differences privately.

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