| Call 1994
Profile: Wills and Estates
Experience and Expertise
Justin Holmes is ranked as a leading junior for Private Client: Trusts and Probate work by The Legal 500. He advises and represents executors, trustees and beneficiaries in disputes involving wills and estates, and has particular experience of applications under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. His practice covers both probate claims in the Chancery Division, where the validity of a will is in question, and disputes arising under the Non-Contentious Probate Rules in the Probate Registry relating to the appointment of administrators, caveats, and other matters.
He frequently advises both executors and beneficiaries on will construction and rectification questions, and aims to give practical and realistic advice to enable the administration of the estate to proceed with the minimum possible delay and expense.
He has advised and represented clients in numerous cases involving the selection or replacement of executors, administrators and trustees, and in respect of claims by beneficiaries against personal representatives for accounts and for compensation for breach of duty.
Many such claims are mediated, and he has frequently represented and advised clients at mediations.
Cases and Work of Note
Recent illustrative examples include:
- probate action where client was suspicious of the evidence of knowledge and approval produced by the executor;
- advice to firm where solicitor drafting will had intended to include a “Schedule 1” containing various discretionary trusts, but had failed actually to include the Schedule. Whether rectification available, potential liability to beneficiaries;
- advice to personal representative as to merits of proposed proceedings for the sale, or imposition of an occupation rent, of a property partly owned by the estate and partly by the deceased’s former partner;
probate action where other members of the family were suspicious of the evidence of knowledge and approval relied on by Justin’s client;
- will construction summons before Proudman J. Public Trustee sought the court’s ruling on the meaning of a clause in the will of the deceased which might have benefited the staff of one former Council day centre, another existing Council day centre, or neither of them;
- advice on will construction claim. Public Trustee sought ruling on meaning of a clause in the will of the deceased which may, or may not, have created a trust or power to benefit “promising” members of his family, or to relieve “deserving materially hardship cases”. Numerous beneficiaries and potential objects of the powers, most of whom were in India. Questions of administration as well as construction;
- acting for executors and trustee in case where claimant claimed provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 but also claimed that the estate ought to contain all or more of a property owned by the trust;
- advice to client who claimed that his step-daughters’ legacies under the will of his late wife had been adeemed by satisfaction (ie that they had received gifts during her lifetime which were intended to provide for them to the exclusion of the testamentary gifts);
- obtained order for rectification of will on behalf of solicitor who had mistakenly failed to include in the will words negativing the operation of s 33 of the Wills Act;
- advising firm which had failed to consider whether or not the joint tenancy of a property owned by a couple who were making wills had been severed as to the rights of the beneficiaries and potential liability in professional negligence;
- advised executor in probate dispute where lack of capacity was alleged;
- advised residuary beneficiary and executor of complex and valuable estate in respect of applications under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 by deceased’s children;
- probate claim in which letters of administration have been granted but the personal representative later claimed to have discovered a will dating back to 1992 of which Justin’s clients were deeply suspicious. Subsequently representing the personal representative in application to commit potential challenger to the will for breach of a subpoena to bring in the purported testamentary script;
- advising personal representative in respect of her attempts to obtain vacant possession of, and sell, property belonging to the estate in which a beneficiary had continued to reside;
- advising beneficiary in respect of potential revocation action in respect of wills made in India and the UK;
- advising executors and trustees on the effect of a gift “for the joint use and benefit during their joint lives” of three sons, two of whom had since died;
- advising former wife of deceased who had received maintenance payments for many years in respect of potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975;
- advising co-executor of estate in respect of a claim by the other co-executor to be entitled to discharge a loan to himself out of assets in the estate other than the asset specifically charged with repayment of it;
- advising client in respect of potential claims for professional negligence arising out of (a) investment advice given to her late partner and (b) the drafting of his will;
- advising corporate executor and trustee in respect of claim by widow under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The estate was substantial and the deceased’s children asked the trustee to explore whether it could make an offer to the claimant to exercise its discretionary powers under the trust which would be acceptable to the children and to the claimant. Subsequently advising the trustee on its position within the litigation;
- advising executors of an estate on obtaining possession from a relative of the deceased who had been her attorney under an enduring power and who claimed to have a right to live in the property. Also obtaining possession against his friend and his son, and dealing with all of their attempts to frustrate the executors by launching satellite litigation;
- advising professional executors on their duties and rights when considering whether or not to bring probate proceedings;
- advising beneficiary who was given his mother’s share in a farm under her will in respect of the validity of an alleged rejoinder of the joint tenancy without any written instrument prior to her death, and taking proceedings against the executors of the mother’s and father’s estates for recovery of sums due to him;
- advising on whether a gift in a will of an interest in remainder in succession to a life interest vested on the death of the deceased or on the death of the life tenant and as to the potential rectification of the will;
- advising director of deceased’s company who obtained a grant in respect of the deceased’s estate whether such grant was properly and validly obtained;
- various other matters relating to probate, administration of estates, claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, etc.