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After 66 years of marriage, is it acceptable for one spouse to leave no financial provision for their widowed partner in their will?
Rebecca Taylor* – Senior Associate Solicitor – gives the answer…
No – not according to Justice Peel in the recent case of Kaur v Estate of Karnail Singh & Ors .
Karnail Singh’s estate was estimated to be worth around £1.2 – £1.9 million. In his Will, he left his entire estate to his two sons, leaving no financial provision for his widowed wife.
The general rule in the UK is that a person is entitled to dispose of their property on their death however they see fit. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule and one of them is provided for by The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 (“1975 Act”).
The 1975 Act allows the court to make financial provision out of a deceased person’s estate for people who depended on them during their lifetime, even where the deceased did not make provision for them in their Will.
Not everyone can bring a claim under the 1975 Act. You must fall into one of several categories which include: the spouse of the deceased; the former spouse of the deceased; child of the deceased; any person who has been maintained by the deceased immediately prior to their death.
In the case of Kaur v Estate of Karnail Singh & Ors , widowed Mrs Kaur (as spouse of the deceased) brought a claim seeking reasonable financial provision pursuant to the 1975 Act.
When determining whether to make an order for financial provision under the 1975 Act, the court will take into account the following factors:
- The financial resources and financial needs which the applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- The financial resources and financial needs which any other applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- The financial resources and financial needs which any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
- Any obligations and responsibilities which the deceased had towards any applicant for an order under the 1975 Act or towards any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;
- The size and nature of the net estate of the deceased;
- Any physical or mental disability of any applicant for an order under the 1975 Act or any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;
- Any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person, which in the circumstances of the case the court may consider relevant.
In this case, Mrs Kaur was registered as disabled and her income solely consisted of state benefits totalling a mere £12,000.00 per annum. Unfortunately, Mrs Kaur had to move out of the family home because one of the children, with whom relations are very strained, moved in. She was therefore left with no property of her own.
Justice Peel determined that it was the clearest possible case to conclude that the deceased had made no financial provision in his will for his wife. He said it was “hard to see how any other conclusion could be reached”.
On 14 February 2023, Justice Peel in the High Court of Justice held that the deceased did not make reasonable provision for Mrs Kaur and ordered that she should be receive 50% of the net value of the Estate.
How did the courts conclude such a figure?
Justice Peel held that Mrs Kaur had made a full and equal contribution to the marriage, which had lasted circa 66 years. They had seven children together. They ran a family clothing business (although now closed) which they successfully ran together, despite Mrs Singh not having a stake in the business, nor receiving a salary. Ultimately, this led to the accumulation of the deceased assets throughout their long marriage which included a matrimonial home, four residential buy to let properties, a commercial property and land in India.
Justice Peel alluded that had Mr Singh not died and this was a divorce case, the usual financial remedy would be a 50% share in the assets.
If you want to contest a Will or think that you may be eligible to bring a claim under the 1975 Act and would like advice in respect of the same, please call our offices on 0161 832 3304 and ask to speak to myself or Andrew Ryan who is Partner and Head of the Dispute Resolution department.
*This article was co-authored by Rachel Steel.