Our client was the sole surviving sibling of the deceased. Although a valid will could not be located for his sister, one of her nephews produced a handwritten codicil which he claimed had been executed by her and under which he was left some land and a cash legacy.
Our client and his sister's other relatives, who were to receive a share of the estate under the intestacy rules, disputed the validity of the codicil for a number of reasons. Their main concern was that no one had previously known about the existence of the codicil, which had been handwritten by the nephew's wife and witnessed by his step-son and daughter. We argued that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the preparation of the codicil and that the nephew should therefore prove that the deceased did know and approve the contents of her codicil.
The estate was not a large one and as there were 15 beneficiaries under the intestacy rules, their individual shares were fairly small. There was a risk therefore that had the matter proceeded to a final court hearing, the costs of litigation would have outweighed any benefit for the parties.
They therefore agreed to mediate and a settlement was reached under which our client's share of the estate was preserved.