Sharas Alexander Changizi v Robin Donald Mayes

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date08 January 2024
Neutral Citation[2024] EWHC 6 (Ch)
Docket NumberClaim No. PT-2023-000286
CourtChancery Division
Between:
Sharas Alexander Changizi
Claimant
and
(1) Robin Donald Mayes
(2) Pamela Kathleen Changizi (executors of the Estate of Parviz Changizi)
Defendants

[2024] EWHC 6 (Ch)

Claim No. PT-2023-000286

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS OF ENGLAND & WALES

PROPERTY TRUSTS AND PROBATE LIST

MASTER MARSH (sitting in retirement)

Rolls Building

Fetter Lane

London EC4A 1NL

The CLAIMANT appeared in person

Lina Mattsson instructed by Berry & Lamberts LLP appeared for the Defendants

Hearing 29 and 30 November 2023

Judgment handed down remotely on 8 January 2024

Introduction

1

This claim relates to the estate of Parviz Changizi (“Mr Changizi”) who died on 18 September 2010. His domicile of origin was Iranian but by the time of his death he was a Spanish national living in and domiciled in Spain for English succession and Inheritance Tax purposes. He left a will dated 1 March 1985 which was limited to dealing with his estate in England.

2

The claimant (“Sharas”) is one of Mr Changizi's four children. The first defendant (“Mrs Changizi”) is his widow. The second defendant (“Mr Mayes”) is the joint executor and trustee with Mrs Changizi of Mr Changizi's will. Although 13 years have passed since Mr Changizi died it has not been possible for either his English or his Spanish estate to be fully administered and distributed.

3

This judgment arises after hearing over two days two applications made within this Part 8 claim. Sharas appeared in person. The defendants were represented by Lina Mattsson.

4

In the Part 8 claim Sharas is seeking orders against the defendants for disclosure of documents and the provision of information. Sharas states explicitly that he wishes to hold the defendants to account and he intends to bring a claim based upon a breach or breaches of trust and/or devastavit. His witness statement made in support of the claim lists the documents and information he seeks which fall into 10 broad categories and comprises 55 individual requests. Although this judgment does not deal with the disposal of the claim, I note that Sharas has made 16 requests for documents relating to his father's will and its drafting albeit that probate was granted 9 years ago. Furthermore, it is not in doubt that some other categories of documents have already been supplied by the defendants.

5

At a directions hearing on 24 July 2023 Master Brightwell made an order providing:

“3. The Defendants shall have permission to make an application in relation to the unpaid costs orders they have obtained against the Claimant/[Sharas] in other proceedings relating to the estate of the late Parviz Changizi and/or whether the proceeds of the sale of real property within the estate constitute movable or immovable assets under English Law (without prejudice to the question as to whether that is relevant to the proceedings which have been issued in Spain), any such application to be made by 4.00pm on 7th August 2023.

5. The disposal hearing shall deal with both the issues raised in the claim form and the question of whether the proceeds of sale of real property within the estate constitutes movable or immovable assets under English Law (without prejudice to the question as to whether that is relevant to the proceedings which have been issued in Spain).”

6

Subsequently the two applications were issued:

(1) The defendants applied on 7 August 2023 seeking a stay of the claim until previous costs orders totalling £115,959.22 are paid. It also indirectly requires the court to decide whether the sale of two properties by the executors has the consequence that what was for conflict of law purposes immovable property at the date of Mr Changizi's death has become movable property and therefore falls to be distributed in accordance with Spanish rules of succession.

(2) Sharas' application 22 August 2023 seeks the distribution of his share of the estate or at least £115,959.22 so he can pay the costs that are due.

7

On 26 September 2023 Master Brightwell made a further order in the following terms:

“1. The Defendants' Application and Sharas' Application shall both be listed for hearing on 29 November 2023 in place of the disposal hearing previously listed.

2. The Defendants shall file and serve a witness statement setting out (a) their position in relation to the status of assets as movable or immovable under English Law as it pertains to the Estate of the late Parviz Changizi, and (b) any response to the Sharas' Application, by 4pm on 10 October 2023. For the avoidance of doubt the Second Defendant should set out her position both as an executor and in her personal capacity.”

8

The Part 8 claim is not being progressed pending disposal of the applications. However, I note that the defendants have offered Sharas access to the documents he is seeking, other than privileged documents, provided it is at his cost. This offer was made in a letter dated 7 August 2023 and has been repeated more recently. There has been no reply from Sharas to the offer.

Background

9

There has been a lengthy and involved history since Mr Changizi's death in 2010. Before dealing with the two applications, it is necessary to provide the background and a summary of the previous proceedings in some detail.

10

Mr and Mrs Changizi had four children; Gheeve, Sarah, Lara and Sharas. Mrs Changizi and the children were the main beneficiaries under Mr Changizi's will. The terms of the will are uncontroversial. Put in summary form:

(1) Under clause 3 Mr Changizi made a specific bequest of his jewellery to be divided between his children. It is accepted that the items of jewellery fall to be distributed in accordance with the Spanish laws of succession.

(2) Under clause 4 he devised and bequeathed “all my estate both real and personal in England” to his trustees upon trust for sale.

(3) Under clause 5 his executors and trustees were required to hold the net proceeds of sale and, after paying his debts and funeral expenses, they were to divide the estate in three equal shares with two shares to be divided equally between his surviving children and one share for Mrs Changizi.

11

Mr Changizi's residuary estate principally comprised the legal estate in two long leasehold properties.

(1) 19 Wetherby Mansions London SW5 9BH which was held jointly with Lara on the basis of an express declaration of trust to the effect that they held it as tenants in common as to 80% for Mr Changizi and 20% for Lara. The property was ultimately sold after a dispute between the executors and Lara had been resolved and the estate received £556,000 for its share. This was considerably less than the market value of the property at the time of sale.

(2) 105 Barkston Gardens London SW5 0EX was held in Mr Changizi's sole name. It was sold by the executors on 18 September 2019 for £1,380,000.

12

A third property, 105 Coleherne Court London SW5 0ED, was held in the joint names of Mr and Mrs Changizi as joint tenants and passed by survivorship to her outside his estate.

13

Mrs Changizi was unhappy about the terms of the will and in 2012 Gheeve, Sarah and Lara executed a deed dated 17 July 2012 varying its terms so that that their shares in the residuary estate were gifted to their mother. Sharas declined to join in with that arrangement. Sadly, by the date the deed of variation Sharas had fallen out with the rest of his family. In October 2011 he rather wildly suggested that his mother had destroyed the 1985 will. In an email sent by him on 25 February 2012 he accused his siblings of being “selfish, spiteful and bloody-minded” and made it clear that he would seek to run down the estate in England so that no one ended up with any part of it.

14

Sharas challenged the validity of the will by filing a caution. He says he had good reasons for doing so, that the will was a surprise to everyone and he was suspicious about its validity. At this remove, Sharas' motivation at the time he made the challenge has no relevance. What is of importance, however, is how the subsequent probate proceedings were conducted and their outcome.

15

Mrs Changizi, in her capacity as a beneficiary under the will, brought a probate claim seeking a pronouncement in favour of the 1985 will. Sharas and Mr Mayes were defendants. The claim itself was entirely straightforward. However, Sharas defended the claim on a number of grounds including allegations that:

(1) The 1985 will had not been duly executed.

(2) The Mr Changizi's signature had been procured by undue influence.

(3) Mr Changizi lacked capacity.

(4) If the will was valid, it had been revoked by one of two documents produced by Mr Changizi in 1994.

16

These allegations were not fully particularised and at a case management conference held on 7 August 2013 Deputy Master Matthews made an order requiring Sharas to give full particulars of his principal allegations and to provide comments on 10 issues that were set out in a schedule annexed to the order. Sharas did not appear before the court when that order was made.

17

The claim came back before the court on 24 October 2013. Sharas had made an application for summary judgment based upon his case that the will had been revoked. However, once again he did not appear and his application was dismissed with costs. Deputy Master Rhys also made an unless order requiring Sharas to comply with the requirements of the order made by Deputy Master Matthews or in default he would be debarred from defending the claim.

18

Sharas made an application for relief from sanctions which came before Deputy Master Clark on 27 February 2014 (in Sharas' absence) which was refused. She directed that the claim be tried on written evidence and made an order for costs against Sharas.

19

On 23 June 2014 the claim was tried by Mann J and the court pronounced in favour of the 1985 will and made an order for costs against him. The order also provided that the...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT