This short decision considered an application for an interim distribution in the sum of £400,000 from the estate of a wealthy businessman brought by the deceased’s widow within administration proceedings brought by her stepson.
The application was supported by copious affidavit evidence from the widow, but there was no evidence in response: the respondent stepson appeared in person because (on his evidence) his solicitors had refused to continue acting on the grounds they had not been paid.
The judge was prepared to order the £400,000 interim distribution sought on the basis of the applicant widow’s evidence alone: first, he was satisfied that if the interim distribution was not made it was possible that there would be “irreparable damage to her standard of living and lifestyle” and there was potential for her claim to her share of the deceased’s estate to be ‘stifled’; second, he found that the respondent stepson and “other members of his side of the family” had themselves already enjoyed significant distributions.
The decision is a clear demonstration that the mere fact of litigation over an estate does not mean it must be tied up in its entirety until resolution of that litigation: interim distributions may be made to meet need, or fund a party’s litigation costs, and no doubt there are other grounds. The question is one of prejudice to the other parties/litigation, to which the size of the estate and the receipt of previous distributions is relevant.
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