A landmark legal battle has reached a surprising conclusion – which could change the way that will disputes are handled by English Courts.
The news comes after The High Court handed down a costs judgement for more than £65,000 in a long-running legal battle which could set a new precedent: That UK Courts may issue costs orders against claimants ‘acting obstructively’, ‘causing delays’ and pursuing ‘weak’ will challenges.
Typically, in a family will dispute, there is a ‘no costs’ rule for proceedings unless it is apparent that a defendant had ‘no reasonable grounds’ for opposing the disputed will.
However, in the case of Elliot v Simmonds, A Judge ruled that Ms Simmons, the illegitimate child of millionaire, Mr Ken Jordon, had ‘acted unreasonably’ in raising a challenge against Mr Jordon’s will.
The case, which first kicked up a media storm in December 2015, saw Ms Simmons put forward an argument that Mr Jordon’s recent will was “invalid for lack of capacity, knowledge and approval and undue influence”.
The disgruntled daughter also alleged a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against the late Mr Jordon’s estate, which his will stipulated would to go entirely to his long-term partner, Ms Elliott.
Ms Simmonds raised various will challenges, but took ‘no steps’ to bring forward an actual claim to the Courts, relying solely upon a ‘passive defence’ when the executor eventually issued proceedings to prove the will at a later date.
In December 2015, the case was forced to trial and Deputy Judge Murray found nothing to suggest the recent will was invalid.
The Judge proved the will in favour of Ms Elliott, stating: “I have concluded that none of the individual arguments raises a reasonable ground on which to oppose the will.
“I have also considered and rejected the conclusion that somehow, taken together, they raise a reasonable ground,” he added.
Deputy Judge Murray ordered Ms Simmons to pay £65,000 – stipulating that further costs would be assessed at a later date.