‘Costs incurred in an Inheritance Act claim erode the capital value of the estate in dispute by 35.5%’

This is a classic case of where by entering into early Mediation over 1/3 of the estate could have been saved for distribution. In Amnir & Others v Bala & Others (2023) EWHC 1054 (Ch) – a dispute in which several members of the deceased Testator’s extended family claimed reasonable provision under the Inheritance Act, Master Brightwell stated:
‘What follows below may be seen as an exhortation to parties embarking on litigation under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”) to consider in advance the potentially devastating consequences of fighting points of marginal relevance at inordinate cost with the effect of depleting a significant estate so that none of the competing claims on it can be fully met. It may also highlight the difficulties in determining claims before the value of the net estate has been established, and the futility of pursuing through to the end of trial claims of a magnitude which the net estate is on any view not large enough to meet. …
The represented parties were agreed at trial that the parties’ litigation costs should be paid out of the estate first, i.e. before the court considers what award to make to each of the parties.’
– Costs incurred = £703K.
– Estimated net estate =  £1,979,546.
– Therefore costs are likely to deplete the estate by 35.5%.  
‘The property particulars put forward by Shama suggest that around £750,000 is required to buy a three-bedroomed house in the area where she has been living. This would entail payment of stamp duty land tax of £25,000 plus the costs of moving. I consider that it is most likely that Shama will be required to buy a property which costs less than £750,000, whether by buying a flat and/or moving to a different area, but that will be a decision for her once the size of the net estate is established.’ (Para 169).
‘With the most likely range of values for the net estate in mind, I consider that the first charge on the net estate, after payment of costs and testamentary expenses, should be an award of £550,000 to Shama. In the unlikely event that it transpires that the net estate after payment of costs is less than £550,000, the entire estate will be awarded to Shama. That is the minimum sum reasonably required to accommodate Shama and her children, and move them to their new accommodation. I have well in mind that Shama considers that she needs to spend considerably more than this.’ (Para 170).
This is a brilliantly analysed and written, i.e. ‘Model’ judgment, and I will discuss it in the 2nd edition of the ‘Contentious Probate Handbook’, which after I have completed my Diploma in Art Law Course at the Institute of Art & Law in London, I will be writing in my free time for publication by the Law Society in 2024. I started work on the book in January and have written/updated around 20% of the first edition.