Cases by Area of Law

Habberfield v Habberfield

Barrister: Leslie Blohm QC
Area of Law: Agriculture & Rural AffairsProperty and Real Estate and Wills, Trusts & Tax 
Summary: Leslie was instructed by Stephens Scown LLP, who represented Lucy Habberfield in her claim in the Chancery Division in Bristol against her mother for a share of her mother and father’s farm, relying on many promises said to have been made to her whilst she worked on the farm for low wages and for long hours.  After a five day trial, Mr. Justice Birss has awarded Ms. Habberfield a lump sum of £1,170,000 in respect of her claim.

View Court of Appeal judgment here: Habberfield v Habberfield [2018] EWHC 317 (Ch)

Ann Legg and Lynn Burton v Aaron Burton, Victoria Brooks and Michael Burton [2017] EWHC 2088 (Ch)

Barrister: John Dickinson
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: John Dickinson was successful in acting for the Claimants in the two day trial heard on 2nd and 3rd August, with judgment being handed down by His Honour Judge Matthews on 11th August 2017 in the Chancery Division of the Bristol District Registry. The Claimants established a constructive trust under the doctrine of mutual wills under which the estate of their Deceased mother was held for the Claimants, rather than being held under her last Will for various of her grandchildren and others.

The judgment is available here.

Ames v Jones & Ors

[2016] EW Misc B67 (CC), Lawtel AC0151933 27/9/16

Barrister: Oliver Wooding 
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Probate
Summary: Oliver appeared at trial for an adult daughter in a claim under Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependants) Act 1975 for financial provision out of her father’s Estate, which was left entirely to his second wife.  The case raised interesting questions about the nature of the court’s discretion under s. 9 to treat jointly owned property as part of the net Estate and was ultimately dismissed where the judge concluded that the claimant’s present unemployment was “a lifestyle choice”.  The case caused considerable press attention and was featured in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and This Morning.

Ely v Robson (2016)

[2016] EWCA Civ 774

Barrister: Jody Atkinson
Area of Law:  Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: Jody appeared for the successful party before the Court of Appeal in the case of Ely v Robson [2016] EWCA Civ 774. This is an important decision in the field of proprietary estoppel and constructive trusts. Jody is a member of both our commercial & chancery and family practice groups, and has a particular expertise in cross over areas such as cohabitant disputes.

Jody appeared for Mr Ely. In summary, he was in a 20-year relationship with Ms Robson, and they had two children together. When they split up, Ms Robson attempted to claim a half interest in Mr Ely’s house. Proceedings were issued in 2007, and the matter was set for a trial. However, Mr Ely and Ms Robson reached an oral agreement on a park bench that Ms Robson would be permitted to live in the house until her aunt (who also lived there) died. They also agreed Mr Ely would leave 20% of the value of the house to Ms Robson after he died. However, in a misguided attempt to save money, neither parties’ solicitor converted the oral agreement into a signed written agreement or consent order. The Court was told that the matter was settled. The parties carried on living unhappily in the house together.

Six years later the aunt died and Mr Ely asked Ms Robson to leave. She refused to do so, stating there had never been an agreement. The matter returned to the Swindon County Court, where the Judge found that there had been a settlement agreement as Mr Ely had alleged. Ms Robson appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the parties’ oral settlement agreement failed to comply with the requirements of section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989, which required contracts for the disposition of interests in land to be in writing signed by both parties, and that Mr Ely could not rely on the law of proprietary estoppel due to the decision in Cobbe v Yeoman’s Row Management Ltd [2008] UKHL 55, [2008] 1 WLR 1752.

The Court of Appeal (Sir Brian Levenson, President of the Queens Bench Division, and Kitchin LJ) accepted Jody’s submissions that the terms of the agreement were sufficiently clear, the parties had intended it to be immediately binding, and, the parties having acted on the settlement agreement for six years, it was not possible for Ms Robson to now resile from it. This was an area where the relief granted could be described as either a constructive trust, or as a result of proprietary estoppel. The two doctrines were concurrent at this point. Ms Robson was to vacate the property and pay the full costs of the first hearing and also of the appeal.

View decision:

Amiee Shannon Steed

Barrister: John Dickinson
Area of Law:  Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: John successfully acted for the defendant in the case of Amiee Shannon Steed (a Child by her Litigation Friend, Marilyn Joy Winn) in a two-day will construction trial on 16th and 17th March 2016 before Mr Justice Newey in the Chancery Division of the Bristol District Registry.

Read news article: John Dickinson successfully acts in a two-day will construction trial in the case of Amiee Shannon Steed

S v The S Estate

Barrister: Jody Atkinson
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts & Tax
Summary: Jody acted for the defendant estate and correctly advised on the likely award to the claimant adult child, this achieving a costs award against the adult child when she failed to beat this award.

E v R

Barrister: Jody Atkinson
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts & Tax
Summary: Jody acted for defendant home-owner, and successfully defended constructive trusts / proprietary estoppel claim by cohabitant to interest in property.

M v The R Estate

Barrister: Jody Atkinson
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts & Tax
Summary: Jody acted for the cohabitant of deceased claiming against estate worth in excess of £15m. Favourable outcome secured without court proceedings by mediation.

Wilby v Rigby [2015]

[2015] EWHC 2394 (Ch); [2015] W.T.L.R. 1845 (Ch D)

Barrister: Nicholas Pointon
Area of Law: Trusts
Nicholas successfully represented the Claimant in a claim to remove her brother as executor of their late mother’s estate and to substitute an independent administrator in a pre-grant application under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985. The Claimant also succeeded in a devastavit claim to require her brother to account for the market rent which ought to have been achieved by their late mother’s home during a three year period in which the Defendant permitted his partner’s grandson to occupy the property.
The claim was unusual because the Claimant had prevented a sale of the property by entering a caveat against the deceased’s will. Following a trial in the London Chancery Division before His Honour Judge Hodge QC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court), the Court accepted that the level of distrust and lack of confidence between the parties was such that they could not work together and should be removed (Re Steel [2010] EWHC 154 (Ch); [2010] WTLR 531 applied).
The Defendant was also ordered to account to the estate for lost rental income at the rate of £750pcm for the last 33 months, and to pay the Claimant’s costs of the action.
A note of the decision can be found at Lawtel Report Document No. AC9401757.

The case has also attracted the interest of local press: Siblings sacked after Colchester will row

Miles v The Public Guardian; Beattie v The Public Guardian (2015)

[2015] EWHC 2960 (Ch)

Barrister: Adam Boyle
Area of Law:
 Wills and Trusts / Court of Protection
Summary: In July 2015 Adam won an Appeal to the High Court in front of Mr Justice Nugee in a tricky Court of Protection matter, Miles v The Public Guardian; Beattie v The Public Guardian [2015] EWHC 2960 (Ch). The case centred on the degree of specificity which a party drafting an LPA can go into. In particular, the key issue in this matter was whether it is possible to specify the continuation of, in effect, one element of a joint power of attorney by setting out in an LPA  the express reappointment of just one of the two initially jointly appointed persons, in the event that the other can no longer continue to act. The successful Appeal granted more choice to donors of LPAs, giving them extra control over who makes the crucial decisions regarding their wellbeing and financial affairs in the event that they become mentally vulnerable. It would also appear to represent a loosening, by the court, of the previously tight rules imposed on attempts to deviate from the norm in LPAs.