Case Highlights Requirement of Grant of Representation for Foreign Entities in English Estate Administration

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3150 (Ch)
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of The Ali Abdullah Alesayi Will Establishment v Hashim Ali Alesayi [2023] EWHC 3150 (Ch) presents a legal conundrum regarding the standing to sue in the English courts dealing with the administration of a foreign estate. The High Court of Justice had to determine whether the claimant, a legal entity registered in Saudi Arabia, had the standing to pursue proceedings without a grant of representation in England and Wales. The detailed examination by Master Brightwell elucidates the principles of administration of estates and the application of English procedural rules to foreign entities and representatives.

Key Facts

The claimant, The Ali Abdullah Alesayi Will Establishment, alleged to be the “parent holding entity” for assets bequeathed under the late Ali Abdullah Ali Alesayi’s will, initiated proceedings against the defendant, Hashim Ali Alesayi, Mr. Ali’s son. The central issue involved the enforcement of duties and agreements relating to the assets of the will without a grant of representation in England. The claimant was incorporated after Mr. Ali’s death and sought the administration of estate assets which comprise a one-third share designated for investors, needy relatives, and charities.

The defendant, being a resident of England, was served with the proceedings in the jurisdiction. The claimant argued that certain obligations arose from the Proof of Will, and the defendant was accused of breaching these obligations as well as enriching himself unjustly from the estate assets.

Master Brightwell’s judgment drew upon several key legal principles and precedents:

  1. Grant of Representation: A grant of representation is needed to sue in English courts on behalf of a deceased’s estate (Jennison v Jennison [2023] Ch 225). This principle ensures the proper party is conducting the administration of the estate, which is governed entirely by the lex loci (law of the place where the administration is taking place).

  2. Executor vs. Administrator: An executor derives their authority from the will itself, while an administrator’s authority comes solely from the grant of representation (Chetty v Chetty [1916] 1 AC 603).

  3. Foreign Estates: Foreign representatives must obtain a grant in England to represent the deceased in legal proceedings (Dicey, Morris and Collins, The Conflict of Laws, 16th edn).

  4. Standing and Nullity: If a claim is brought by someone who does not have the appropriate grant of representation for estate assets located in England, it is considered a nullity and fundamental to the constitution of the proceedings (Jogie v Sealy [2022] UKPC 32).

  5. Characterisation of Claims: The court considered whether the claimant’s action was for administration of the estate (requiring a grant) or a personal claim not related to the estate’s administration. English law characterises such claims, and the lex fori perspective applies (Viegas v Cutrale [2023] EWHC 1896 (Comm)).

Outcomes

The court held that:

  1. The claimant had no standing to institute proceedings as it lacked a grant of representation, making the proceedings a nullity.

  2. The entirety of the claim was aimed at administering the estate of Mr. Ali, not for the personal benefit of the claimant.

  3. The claimant’s action under the alleged “Holding and Transfer Agreement” was inherently linked to the administration of the estate’s assets and thus required a grant of representation.

  4. The claim for declarations that certain assets were due to the claimant was also part of the administration of the estate and similarly required a grant.

Consequently, all claims were struck out on account of nullity.

Conclusion

The High Court’s decision in The Ali Abdullah Alesayi Will Establishment v Hashim Ali Alesayi reinforces the stringent requirements for non-UK entities to pursue estate administration within the jurisdiction of England and Wales. It underscores the necessity for a proper grant of representation, either in the form of a probate or letter of administration, before initiating proceedings concerning estate assets in England. The judgment clarifies that, regardless of contract-like agreements or the entity’s nature, claims that fundamentally deal with the administration of an estate are subject to English procedural law, leaving no room for proceeding without a grant. This serves as a critical reminder for legal professionals dealing with international estates and cross-border succession issues.

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