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Cowan v Foreman & Ors [2019]

The Applicant brought an application under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, however the application was brought 17 months after the permitted period (6 months from the issue of Grant of Probate). The Applicant relied a standstill agreement made between the parties which aimed to enable further investigations to take place. The application was dismissed and the parties approach was initially criticised by Mostyn J, he emphasised that ‘the practice of stand-still agreements must come to ‘an immediate end’ because ‘it is not for the parties to give away time that belongs to the court’.

Subsequent application was made to the Court of Appeal in July 2019 which led to the above decision being overturned. The Applicant’s reasoning for the delay in bringing the claim was scrutinised and it was agreed that the Applicant’s claim had sufficient merits. Lady Justice Asplin emphasised that ‘it seems to me that there is a proper explanation for the delay, Mrs Cowan acted promptly once her true position was appreciated and advice had been taken’.

Lady Justice King also stressed ‘that if parties choose the ‘stand still’ route, there should be clear written agreement setting out the terms/duration of such an agreement and each of the potential parties should be included in the agreement’.

The Court of Appeal’s decision has brought some assurance for the legal professionals in the sense that standstill agreements are used in practice to avoid issue of proceeding protectively and prematurely which can lead to unnecessary costs. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that each case is considered on its own merits.

If you are interested in any contentious probate matters please contact our Maya Elci or Charlotte Pegman

 

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