Widow wins 50% share of husband’s £1m estate

Apr 27, 2023

A widow who was married to her husband for 66 years but left out of his Will has won her court case requesting a share of his estate, valued in excess of £1 million.

When Karnail Singh died in 2021, his Will left his entire estate to his two sons because of a wish to leave everything to the male line. His 83-year-old widow, Harbans Kaur, and his four daughters received nothing.

Mrs Kaur’s claim

His widow brought a claim for reasonable financial provision, as she was entitled to do under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) act 1975. Her income consisted of around £12,000 per year in state benefits and nothing else.

The family had run a clothing business, with Mrs Kaur playing a full role in the marriage and working in the business. She estimated the value of the business to be £1.9 million. One of the sons said that it was worth £1.2 million.

The court’s decision

The judge, Mr Justice Peel, found it to be clear that reasonable financial provision had not been made for Mrs Kaur and ruled that she should receive 50% of the net value of the estate.

He said: ‘By (a) will, dated 25 June 2005, the estate was left in equal shares to two of the children… the sons of the claimant and the deceased,’ he wrote.

‘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.

‘It seems to me that this is the clearest possible case entitling me to conclude that reasonable provision has not been made for the claimant.

‘It is hard to see how any other conclusion can be reached. After a marriage of 66 years, to which she made a full and equal contribution, and during which all the assets accrued, she is left with next to nothing.’

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 exists to protect certain individuals who may not have been provided for in a Will but who relied on the deceased to maintain them or who were closely related to them or in a close relationship with them.

Those who may be entitled to make a claim are:

  • The deceased’s spouse or civil partner
  • A former spouse or civil partner, provided that they have not remarried or entered into another civil partnership
  • Someone who was living with the deceased for two years or more before their death
  • A child of the deceased
  • Someone who was treated as their child by the deceased
  • Someone who was being maintained by the deceased at the time of their death

A spouse or civil partner is entitled to claim a sum that is reasonable in the circumstances. In deciding how much is reasonable, the judge can consider what they might have received had they divorced the deceased.

Other individuals are only entitled to claim a reasonable financial provision to maintain them.

In deciding how much to award, the court will look at:

  • The applicant’s own financial resources
  • The applicant’s financial needs, both now and in the future
  • The financial resources and needs of any other beneficiary of the estate
  • The size of the estate
  • Any disability on the part of either the applicant or a beneficiary
  • Any other relevant circumstances

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