When making your will, there are very good reasons why it makes sense to appoint a professional to administer your estate. A High Court ruling showed why the modest cost of doing so is very nearly always well worth it.
After some relatively small legacies, a woman bequeathed half of her estate to her grandchildren and the other half to their uncle. After obtaining a grant of probate, it was the uncle's responsibility to administer the estate – which was valued at over £550,000 – in accordance with her will. Her principal asset, her home, had since been sold but, more than three years after her death, the grandchildren had yet to receive any part of their inheritance.
They responded by obtaining an asset freezing injunction against the uncle together with an order requiring him to provide a full inventory of the estate's assets and give a detailed explanation as to what had happened to them. They subsequently applied to have him committed to prison for breaching that order.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the uncle had completely failed to engage in the proceedings and had not attended the hearing. It was, however, satisfied that he was aware of the proceedings and that he had been given ample opportunity to explain any difficulties he might be encountering in his administration of the estate. It was therefore fair to proceed with the case in his absence.
The Court was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he had knowingly failed to provide the information required by the order. He was therefore in contempt of court and faced a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or an unlimited fine. He was ordered to attend a sentencing hearing and the Court warned him that, if he failed to do so, it was likely to either again proceed in his absence or issue a bench warrant for his arrest.