10 February 2022
By Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr.
The case of Reeves v Drew is a sorry tale and shows that you get what you pay for.
In it the judge described a solicitor as ‘reckless and quite possibly dishonest’ over the preparation of a Will for a client worth over £100,000,000.
This arose during the hearing of the case in which the solicitor in question Daniel Curnock supported the claimant. The judge said that he had given ‘untruthful evidence’ and said that there could be serious consequences for Curnock because of his findings. The claim was brought by Louise Reeves to uphold the 2014 Will of her property-dealer father Kevin Reeves, following his death in 2018.
Louise received 80% of her father’s estate and her half-sister Lisa the other 20%. Other family members opposed probate being granted and said that the 2014 Will had been made because of ‘undue influence’. An earlier 2012 Will had split the estate more equally between the family and so the 2014 Will was a ‘dramatic change’.
Mr Justice Green described the way in which the Will was prepared as ‘very strange’. Despite Kevin Reeve’s wealth, Curnock insisted that because Mr Reeves had negotiated a fixed fee of £140 + VAT, he would not be able to provide a ‘first class service’. Curnock said in Court that his service was ‘akin to the quality of clothes at Primark’.
The judge thought it ‘extraordinary’ that Curnock crossed out and wrote on the earlier Will whilst it was still valid and that Curnock could not explain why he did that.
The judge found Curnock ‘annoying’ by his various ruses to ‘buy time’ when in the witness box and described him as ‘the most unsatisfactory witness whose evidence cannot be tested by reference to his own attendance notes because those attendance notes are themselves under challenge’. It was also observed that there was ‘far more’ to the relationship between Louise and Curnock than either of them said. There was mention of familiarity between Daniel and Louise and that there were many text messages exchanged between them at the time.
The judge said that it was ‘distressing’ that he could not rely on Curnock’s evidence as a solicitor. He did not think him truthful about how he took instructions, prepared the 2014 Will or his relationship with Louise Reeve.
The judge said that usually the involvement of a solicitor would usually strengthen the presumption of the validity of a Will but that here it was ‘quite the reverse’.
The judge held that Louise as the claimant had not proved that her father knew and approved the contents of the 2014 Will and upheld the undisputed 2012 Will as valid.
For further information, please contact Miranda Marshall on 01263 712835 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.