Despite her and their four girls being completely left out of her late husband’s will, a widow has been awarded half of his £1 million estate.
The widowed Harbans Kaur married Karnail Singh in 1955. Prior to passing away in 2021 after 66 years of marriage, Sing drafted his will in 2005.
Singh expressed in his will that he wanted to leave his estate “solely down the male line” and so, to his two sons he had had with Kaur. Meaning that his wife and four daughters were not named as beneficiaries of his estate.
Mr Justice Peel, who heard the case (Kaur v Estate of Karnail Singh & Ors  EWHC 304 (Fam)) in the family division at the Royal Courts of Justice, heard Kaur had played a “full role” in the marriage and in the family’s clothing business. Mr Justice Peel said:
“By [a] will dated 25th June 2005, the estate was left in equal shares to two of the children… the sons of the claimant and the deceased.
The reason why the will was crafted in these terms, excluding the claimant and the other four siblings, was because the deceased wished to leave his estate solely down the male line. Accordingly, the claimant receives nil provision under the will.”
Peel J added, weighing up all the factors in s3 of the Inheritance Act 1975, “this is the clearest possible case entitling me to conclude that reasonable provision has not been made for the claimant”, adding: “It is hard to see how any other conclusion can be reached.”
During the case, Peel J noted that the “divorce cross-check” in cases disputing reasonable financial provision – wherein the surviving spouse should not ordinarily be worse off as a widow than as a hypothetical divorcee, as explained in para 13 of Ilott – pointed “unerringly” towards an equal division of Singh’s assets.
Accordingly, Peel J awarded 50% of the net value of the estate to Kaur.
Inheritance Act Claims
Being involved in legal disputes over a loved one’s estate can be extremely distressing. However, if you have not been named as a beneficiary, or have not received what you expected, as detailed in this recent case, you could make a claim under The Inheritance Act 1975.
Under UK Law, The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the “1975 Act”) allows a Will (or the intestacy rules) to be disputed on the basis that it fails to adequately provide for certain categories of people, known as eligible claimants, which include one of the following:
- A spouse of the deceased.
- A former spouse of the deceased. This only applies if you have not remarried.
- A partner who lived with the deceased for at least two years immediately before death.
- A child of the deceased.
- A person who was treated as a child by the deceased and the family of the deceased.
- Someone who was financially supported by the deceased.
Applicants falling under these categories must demonstrate that the provision made (or if there was no provision) is unreasonable. How the court considers what is ‘reasonably necessary’ or how they will make an award can involve various complex factors.
Claims under this Act must be issued at court within six months of the date of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. Therefore, if you believe you have a valid inheritance act claim seeking legal advice as soon as possible is essential. Read our previous blog for more information:
Do you always have to go to court?
No, not always. Where possible, we will work with you to find a solution that allows the dispute to be settled out of court, advising on the various types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms available to you. ADR methods are generally faster, cheaper and can reduce more conflict than is necessary in the wake of the death of a loved one. If this is not possible, we have the knowledge and experience to represent you in the courts.
If all the beneficiaries agree to an amendment to the Will, you will need a ‘deed of variation’. While you can write a deed of variation yourself, it is not recommended as there may be complex legal and tax implications if you make a mistake.
Specialist Wills and Probate Solicitors
Our specialist Wills and Probate team are experienced in helping clients in making or defending a dispute against a will or estate administration.
Sally-Ann Joseph is an Associate Member of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners and the firm is regulated by the professional governing body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority so you can be confident that the advice you receive will be tailored to your specific requirements.
Get in touch with our Contentious Probate Team
Please contact our team below to discuss your needs, and we will provide you with further and specific advice tailored to your circumstances.
This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our team of solicitors.