The 'Litigation and Dispute Resolution' departments of full service legal practices in the UK will, almost universally, provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services or at the very least they will be able to facilitate access to trained mediators.
ADR has been used in the UK for many years and particularly since 1999 when the Woolf reforms gave rise to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). The CPR identified principles that aimed to make civil litigation quicker, fairer, more cost-effective and less adversarial for all clients, whether they be commercial clients or private individuals.
It is now expected that parties to a dispute, including Will disputes and contested probate, will attend at least one ADR session. Parties who refuse may find themselves sanctioned by the court with additional costs.
An increase to the statutory legacy amount granted to spouses and civil partners under the rules of intestacy was announced in the House of Commons in January.
There had been widespread speculation that the government might fail to keep its promise to update intestacy rules every five years as an update was due last October, but, as of February 6 the amount will be £270,000 – a £20,000 rise.
The increase, which keeps statutory legacy amounts in line with the Consumer Price Index, means that a surviving spouse or civil partner will now stand to inherit all of a deceased’s personal property, as well as the first £270,000 of their sole estate in the event of intestacy. In the event there are children, the remainder of the estate will be split 50/50 between the children and the surviving spouse.
‘If I had my way, I'd make A do X and B do Y…’ has long been a treatment proffered by layperson pundits across the land, whether discussing politics in the pub or the outcomes of legal proceedings during a dinner party.
However, a man from Kansas, USA, recently sought to convert this sort of sentiment into action when he asked a court to let him engage his ex-wife in sword-to-sword combat in order to resolve their embittered and long-standing divorce arguments.
2019 was a challenging year for those working in the Wills and probate sector. To begin with, the government’s proposed new fee structures and regulatory changes were, after a long period of sustained and vociferous criticism, abandoned. Next, HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s restructuring of the probate registry in the form of a centralised, digitised system caused delays and backlog, leading to consternation, frustration and considerable bad press.
Probate solicitors have, on occasion, borne the brunt of client frustration while at the same time having to negotiate their own way through uncertainty, change and government U-turns. This situation has been particularly acute for those dealing with probate in relation to charities and trusts as well as practitioners in the contentious probate sector.
In September 2019, the full judgement in the disputed Will and contested probate case Parsonage v Parsonage & Ors  EWHC 2362 (Ch) was published. The case involved the effect of the testatrix's dementia on the validity of her Will and a subsequently redrafted Will.
Around 850,000 people in the UK currently suffer from dementia. The Alzheimer's Society suggests that around 225,000 people will develop dementia this year and 1.6 million people will be affected by some form of dementia by 2040.