Leonard Supple, a man who died in 2004 leaving an Estate thought to be worth up to £18m, has again found its way into the media forefront after further disputes within the family.
The first of these disputes go back to 2007, was an allegation of fraud in relation to Leonard’s last Will. Leonard’s illegitimate daughter, Lynda Supple, attempted to prove the validity of his last Will (which the terms gave her almost all of his entire £18m wealth) following 3 years of arguments over the distribution of the Estate. In the court action that followed, Leonard’s son Stephen successfully argued that the Will was a forgery and was subsequently asked by the Court to administer the Estate of his father.
Further arguments develop within the family after Lynda then attempted to bring an Inheritance Act 1975 claim against the Estate, where Stephen questioned the eligibility of Lynda Supple in bringing the claim. The result was Leonard acknowledging that Lynda was indeed his half sister and therefore entitled to half of the Estate. Following the same proceedings, Stephen was replaced as Executor of his father’s Estate by an independent Solicitor to run the administration.
Fast forward to 2016, and we find that not only is the Estate not yet distributed, but Lynda has brought further proceedings against him for failing to disclose key documentation in relation to the administration. Key documents which have prevented the administration from continuing. Stephen had been ordered to provide them the previous year and in summary judgement, he was found in contempt of court for failing to disclose the documents and is now facing a potential two year sentence once he is located by the High Court’s tipstaff.
This Situation Could Have been Avoided with Mediation
This is certainly an example of an unconventional Estate administration, and it is suffice to say that 99% of administrations will never be this complex or drawn out. However, this case needn’t have been within that 1% either if both Lynda and Stephen had utilised some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as Mediation, back in 2007 when the will was first challenged. Court actions needn’t have been brought, the costs involved could have been drastically reduced and the Estate could have been distributed with much less difficulties.
Mediation is an excellent tool in settling claims and keeping a matter out of the increasingly expensive Court procedures. It can offer a very controlled situation where both parties can put all of their cards on the table and enabling them to focus on the key aspects involved and come to a considered, and quite often more favourable agreement than can be had with traditional negotiation. Not only that, but there is now the possibility of Costs orders being made against parties refusing or ignoring an attempt to settle a claim using ADR.
We Can Help
At MW, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" and our specialist inheritance dispute Solicitors are keen advocates of using Mediation to settle claims, especially in light of its very high success rate and inherent flexibility in the agreement that can be made.