The Case Of The Missing Will

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Why acting as a litigant in person may not be a cost saving exercise

His Honour Judge Hodge QC recently passed judgment on the ‘case of the missing original will’. The case concerns the estate of the late Donald Charles Face and involved his three children, one of who claimed to propound an alleged lost will of her late father dated September 2017. The other siblings countered that this was a forgery and that their father had in fact died intestate.

The Claimant sought to prove the validity of a Will, for which the original could not be found, which disinherited her siblings.

In a High Court case spanning 11 days, Judge Hodge QC was faced with a  single trial bundle from the (unrepresented) Claimant totalling 4,500 pages and spanning 14 lever arch files. With no chronology and 12 Court Orders having been issued in the history of this case, this is surely not a case that any Judge would envy.

The Judgment is necessarily detailed and can be read in full here Face v Cunningham & Anor. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read this in its entirely, in short; the Claimant failed entirely in her claim and was required to pay the costs of the Defendant’s on an indemnity basis (at a higher contribution than is standard). This will erode her inheritance considerably.

Whilst not in possession of the detailed background of the matter, what is clear is that early legal advice on the merits of her argument would very likely have forewarned the Claimant of the futility of the claim she sought to bring, and the potential costs risks to her.

Legal advice can seem expensive, but foregoing early advice from a professional can be a severe false economy.

This case is an extreme example, but if you do have any questions or concerns over a Will or an Estate, book in for one of our complimentary 15 minute slots to have an informal initial discussion with one of our contentious probate experts. To book your session, head to our dedicated page to reserve your spot. Alternatively, call our team on 01903 229999 or email them on

Rosie Duplessis is a Case Worker within our Dispute Resolution team, specialising in Contentious Wills, Estates & Trusts.

Disclaimer: Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.