A summary of key legal updates for the Private Client sector over the past week is as follows.  

Publication of Wills

In Re The Will Of His Late Royal Highness Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, 2021 EWHC 77 Fam, an application was granted for the Will of the late Prince Philip to be sealed up and for the value of his estate to be excluded from the grant of probate. The sealing period was set at 90 years (rather than the 125 years demanded). Under s.124 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, the default position is that a Will which has formed the basis of a grant of probate must be open to public inspection, but the court has jurisdiction under rule 58 NCPR 1987 to disapply this. The judgment commented upon the continued appropriateness of the default position: "'In circumstances where there is no clear account of the legislature's reasons over 160 years ago for requiring the publication of wills and where, now, the right to privacy is, generally, taken very seriously, it is legitimate to question what weight should be given to the need for openness with respect to a will in any particular case." Will of His Late Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Re The [2021] EWHC 77 (Fam) (16 September 2021) (bailii.org)

Contentious probate - costs principle

In Goodwin v Avison, 2021 EWHC 2356 Ch, the High Court clarified the costs principles where a Will challenge is abandoned mid-trial. Costs principles are based on established case law, the Civil Procedure Rules and on Re Cutcliffe's Estate, and include that: i) a losing party's costs can be paid from the estate if the litigation was caused by the testator's own conduct; and ii) each party should bear their own costs if the challenging party has "reasonable grounds" for bringing their case; otherwise, the usual rule is that the losing party should pay both their own costs and those of the successful party. In this case, one of the key factors was that the trial judge could not make a full assessment on the "reasonable grounds" criterion as only part of the evidence had been heard. The court ordered that the unsuccessful defendants pay both their own and the claimant's costs. The case illustrates the importance for practitioners of satisfying themselves at an early stage whether the testator can be said to have caused the litigation and/ or whether there are reasonable grounds for the challenge, so as to discourage speculative litigation which relies on the assumption that costs will be paid out of the estate. Defendants must pay full costs after dropping estate dispute case mid-trial, says EWHC | STEP

Tax year-end date

On 15 September 2021, the Office of Tax Simplification published a review setting out its analysis on a potential change to the tax year-end date for individuals from 5 April to 31 December or 31 March. The review notes that there would be clear advantages to moving the date, but it would require detailed advance planning and cannot take place in the immediate future. In the short-term, the review recommends that the self-employed and landlords be permitted to use 31 March when reporting their income, to facilitate Making Tax Digital for Income Tax. Exploring a change to the UK tax year end date - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Trust Register deadline – 5 October 2021

An upcoming Trust Register deadline to note is that trusts set up before 6 April 2021 which have become liable to income tax or capital gains tax for the first time during tax year 2020/2021 need to be registered by 5 October 2021. The same rule applies to "complex estates". https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/trust-registration-service-manual/trsm4003