12 Avr 2021

Standstill Agreement Case Law

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The case stems from an application under the Inheritance Act 1975 (hereafter the Inheritance Act) on request under the Act. Section 4 provides that after the expiry of the corresponding statutory limitation period, the application can only be submitted with the consent of the Tribunal. The parties entered into a status quo agreement and, ultimately, the application was made without the Tribunal`s approval after the statutory limitation period had expired. In challenging a will, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) 1975 has a very strict and tight deadline for the issuance of the right, which is six months from the date of granting representation (s4). Parties often do not have sufficient time to gather the necessary evidence to prepare the case and work before the legal action, to try to resolve without trial, including the search for other options for resolving disputes. It is possible to ask the court for permission to grant termination and status quo agreements, may also come into play. The second case, in March 2019, was Bhusate v Patel, where Chief Marsh, before the High Court, allowed a plaintiff to withdraw her complaint at the time, when she had been waiting for him for about 25 years! The master found that the applicant had explained « compelling reasons » why, in this case, permission should be granted under the 1975 Act, since she was « effectively powerless » to act earlier, as her stepchildren had no agreement or association. The master had read the Cowan verdict and did not agree with Mr. Justice Mostyn`s approach. Courts have often asked applicants to initiate proceedings in these circumstances and then apply for a stay to follow the protocol.

A stay works to suspend time, but, contrary to a status quo agreement, a court order is required. The Technology and Construction Works Site (CBT) guide recommends this course. As Coulson J commented in Russell v Stone, this is a much safer option than the imbroglio resulting from the self-inflicted complication of status quo agreements that do not work. In Muduroglu v. Stephenson Harwood, the applicant initiated proceedings without notice, as required by the status quo agreement. The defendant argued that this was a breach of the agreement in accordance with the refusal, with the result that the applicant could not rely on the agreement to suspend the limitation period. The court found that the offence was not at the root of the contract. The provision of the publication is not a precedent and a violation of it did not prevent the applicant from benefiting from the suspension of the restriction. Whistle cessation agreements can still be considered as a means of last resort and are, in certain circumstances, an appropriate option. Nevertheless, the case warns of the risks associated with these agreements and stresses the importance of a carefully considered legal form.

Specialized legal advice is therefore essential to ensure that status quo agreements are properly concluded and to ensure that these conditions are formulated effectively.

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