Naomi Ireson, a lawyer specialising in contested probate and Inheritance Act claims at our Taunton office has praised the use of Early Neutral Evaluation in court proceedings.

Early Neutral Evaluation, or ENE, is becoming increasingly popular as a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Under ENE all the parties to the dispute attend court for a judge to appraise the legal merits of the case and examine the evidence.

The views of the judge aren’t binding, but it gives the parties a clear indication of judicial thinking and the likely outcome of the court proceedings.

Early Neutral Evaluation is designed to short circuit the litigation process and save the parties thousands of pounds in legal fees.

Once the judge has given an assessment of the case then that same judge cannot go on to hear the claim if it later proceeds to trial.

In Naomi’s recent case we were representing the defendants in an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claim. The claimant’s case was fundamentally flawed, but neither the Claimant herself nor her solicitors appreciated how weak their legal arguments actually were.

The claimant had refused to mediate and had entirely unrealistic expectations about what her claim was worth – a common problem in contested probate and Inheritance Act claims.

The difficulty this presented for the defendants is that because court proceedings had been formally commenced they had no alternative but to defend an unmeritorious claim; and defending court proceedings is very expensive.

Early Neutral Evaluation was ordered and proved very successful. The parties heard the Judge’s views on the case first hand. As a result the Claimant realised that her claim was not as strong as she had thought. The Judge reiterated what we had been arguing in the correspondence and this caused the claimant to reappraise her position. Soon after the Early Neutral Evaluation a settlement was reached, bringing the court proceedings to a satisfactory early conclusion.

In this instance ENE played an important role in resolving the dispute thereby avoiding a massive escalation of legal costs. Early Neutral Evaluation has therefore got an important role to play in contested probate claims and should be considered in all cases where worries about the escalation of legal costs is likely to be a factor

For further details about Early Neutral Evaluation or contested probate cases then call our Taunton office on 01823 354545 or email us at [email protected]

Important Role for Early Neutral Evaluation in Contested Probate Disputes