News | June 5, 2019

Profile – Caroline Miller

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your expertise

I am a Partner at Wedlake Bell. I have been practising for over 12 years, advising on Private Client work with a particular specialism in contentious trusts and probate. This contentious work can vary from a dispute over a Will where someone feels they should have inherited from an estate to a trust dispute between beneficiaries and trustees, or an application to rectify trust deeds and documents.

Q: You have been working at Wedlake Bell for seven years. What do you particularly enjoy?

Wedlake Bell has a large and dynamic Private Client team that offers expertise in everything from tax and estate planning for non-domiciled clients to mental capacity and Court of Protection work. As the
Contentious Private Client team sit within the main Private Client team and most of the Contentious Team are also general Private Client practitioners, it means we are able to advise from both sides. I really value the fact I still get to advise clients on their Wills and estate planning. One of the main reasons I became a Private Client solicitor was because of the client interaction and ability to build a relationship over many years, but I can, when necessary, still assist a client with their day in court.

Q: What trends do you think will be affecting private clients in the next 3-6 months?

On a general note, there has been a lot in the press about the proposed increase in probate fees, although at the moment these fee increases have not come into effect. In the contentious world, there have been two recent decisions: Cowan v Foreman [2019] and Bhusate v Patel & Others [2019]. Both concern inheritance claims where a spouse did not feel that they had been given reasonable financial provision under their deceased spouse’s Will and, specifically, their ability to bring a claim outside of the time limit (being six months from the date of death). In Cowan, the deceased’s spouse was 16 months late bringing her claim, but her solicitors had obtained agreement from the executors/ trustees that they would not oppose the application; however, the Judge rejected the application to bring the claim out of time. Permission to appeal this decision has been given. In Bhusate, the claim was 25 years too late but the Court found there was good reason for the delay, and the claim was allowed to proceed. These two contrasting decisions have left practitioners scratching their heads as to best way of proceeding in inheritance claims and a reminder, if you think you may have a claim, to take advice early and make sure you respect the relevant limitation periods.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a keen tennis player and I enjoy cooking but having recently had my first child I am now finding all my spare time is taken up with visits to the playground, swimming lessons and generally doing anything that will exhaust her so that we can all have a good night’s sleep!