A probate business that was accused of doing little to progress the administration of an estate has been hit with a costs penalty by the High Court.
The Midlands-based Chorus Law will pay half the costs of Trevor Gaskin, who went through the courts to have it removed from administering the assets of his late mother. Chorus Law admitted that, three years after it was appointed to administer the estate of Eileen Gaskin, her property had not been put on the market and no interim payments made to two of her children.
In Gaskin v Chorus Law Ltd & Anor, Master Clark stated that where there is a delay of more than a year in realising assets, the burden was on the representative to show some valid reason.
Her costs ruling reflected that ‘on any basis [Chorus] should have stepped down as administrator before the order was made’.
The claim for costs was made under section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985, after the parties' combined costs came to more than £180,000 (almost half the value of the estate in question).
Eileen Gaskin died apparently intestate in 2012. A year later, her daughter Marquita Murphy instructed Chorus Law Limited and executed power of attorney in favour of the company. She informed the firm on several occasions that she was not living at her late mother’s property and that she was clearing it for sale. This continued until April 2015, when Trevor Gaskin’s solicitors wrote to Chorus complaining that Murphy was living at the property and it had not been sold.
No further progress was made in the administration of the estate, until in January 2016 when Murphy was threatened with legal proceedings to have her removed as a personal representative of the estate.
Chorus offered to stand down as administrator but only on the condition of a no costs order and its fees paid from the estate funds. This offer was not accepted. The company was eventually removed as administrator in May 2017.
Chorus argued that the claim against it was premature and could have been resolved in pre-action correspondence, and its removal achieved by other means. Murphy will pay the other half of Trevor Gaskin’s costs.