The grandfather clock
In a rather nasty probate dispute, brother and sister who had not met for many years had their own reasons for hating each other. Sister had left home at 16 and married, and not come back to give mother any care in her old age. Brother remained at home, and had to look after mother during a long and distressing last illness. Then as soon as she died, he went off to Thailand and indulged in activities for which Gary Glitter is notorious. Sister was left to clear out mother’s house and put the furniture in storage, the charges being an irritant to her. And brother had come back home and just wanted to clear up mother’s modest estate tidily.
Discussions were lively. Each party subjected Chris to what American mediators call “spilling the bile”. But by careful listening, Chris discovered gold dust: the one thing which one party wanted more than anything, and which it cost nothing for the other party to give up – the grandfather clock! It was an old family heirloom, and brother wanted it; he had wound it every night after putting his Mum to bed. And sister didn’t care about it; it was in storage and was costing her money every month.
Very gently, Chris was able to present brother with the one thing he wanted. The other differences then melted away, and agreement was soon reached.
Four wives, plus a few women in between
The claimant was the second wife of the deceased. He had married four wives altogether, but it had taken 22 years for the financial agreement to be reached with the claimant over a property partnership they once had; it seems that the couple enjoyed negotiating.
Each spouse had taken out substantial values in property, but the second wife had to give a charge to the deceased on her mansion, for the excess value she had taken out. The settlement and the subsequent wills were very tax efficient. But on his deathbed the deceased executed a codicil which left a sum to the fourth wife and destroyed the careful tax planning. The fourth wife had never even lived with the deceased; he had been in hospital for the last months of his life. The second wife claimed that the codicil had been made with undue pressure.
Both ladies were stuck: the fourth wife could not receive any legacy since the will was contested, and the second wife wanted an equity release because she could not afford to pay the cost of her mansion on the Hamble; but the mortgage she had in favour of the deceased had forbade any inferior charges.
Chris spent most of the day with the second wife, who was very old. Fortunately she had brought along an old family friend, a rich farmer who had no axe to grind but who was able to give sensible advice.
Chris persuaded the fourth wife to have the mortgage altered so that the second wife could have her equity release, and a suitable legacy was agreed for the fourth wife.
They all lived happily ever after
Both ladies agreed to settle, and not to face the strain, risk and huge expense of a trial; future costs of £300,000 were saved. The mediation cost £3,000. You do the math!