On 9 December 2022, Trust and Probate Litigation partner Emma Holland and trainee Angus Horwood-Smart attended the annual STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) Special Interest Spotlight Sessions in London, the first to be held in person since the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The Special Interest Spotlight Sessions provide an opportunity for trusts and estates practitioners to meet and discuss specialist areas relevant to their practice.
The day consisted of two sessions: one in the morning titled ‘Trusts and access to justice in light of family and operational diversity’, and one in the afternoon titled ‘Incapacity of business owners: Planning, problems and practice’.
Trusts and access to justice in light of family and operational diversity
Emma spoke on a panel in the morning session, discussing whether the law is failing modern family structures. The panel specifically addressed cohabiting couples, the number of which is due to significantly increase in future.
The panel discussion acknowledged the flexibility of the courts, but noted that there has been little in the way of legislative progress in recent years. Numerous reports from the Law Commission, the Women and Equalities Committee (appointed by the House of Commons) and STEP throughout the last 20 years calling on reform to the intestacy rules and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 have laid the groundwork for legislative reform.
The morning session also included a case law roundup, highlighting the extent of litigation of trusts and succession issues in the context of modern family dynamics in courts, both in the UK and in overseas territories. A further panel discussion also took place on the theme of open justice and disclosure in the realm of trusts and estate disputes, a topic previously discussed by Emma, Jenny Duggan and Judith Swinhoe-Standen in STEP Journal 2022 Issue 4.
Incapacity of business owners: Planning, problems and practice
The afternoon session covered an issue increasingly encountered in relation to disputes arising from the incapacity of business owners and directors. Of particular interest, the group heard the lived experience from panel members who had either personally or professionally encountered issues relating to lack of capacity in a business context.
Attorneys and deputies looking after the affairs of an incapacitated person may encounter burdensome duties lasting potentially many years and covering many eventualities. In the experience of one panel member, these included the sale of a business, a divorce, a statutory will, a tax enquiry, the winding up of an estate and a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
The panel – comprised of practitioners from across the world including the UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and Belgium – discussed the importance of building a team together to support the attorney in each of these aspects.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Trust and Probate Litigation page.
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