Widow awarded half of £1million plus from her late husband’s estate despite being excluded from Will
Harbans Kaur, a widow, married Karnail Singh in 1955 and the couple had six children, two boys and four girls. The widow’s husband executed his last will in 2005, after 65 years of marriage, before passing away in 2021.
In the last will, he expressed his desire to leave his estate solely to the male line, meaning it would be inherited by his two sons only and there would be no provision for his wife of 65 years, or his 4 daughters.
Kaur took to the courts to contest this unreasonable outcome. Mr Justice Peel, the Judge, acknowledged that the widow had been a full and contributing member to their marriage and had been reliant on her late husband, as he had met all his family's outgoings in his lifetime.
The Judge applied the relevant law under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 ("the 1975 Act") to determine whether the last will had failed to make reasonable financial provision for the widow and, if so, what the provision should be.
He considered the hypothetical divorce cross-check principle, which ensures that the surviving spouse should not be worse off as a widow than if the couple were to divorce as of the Deceased's date of death.
The widow was awarded 50% of the net value of the estate. Mr Justice Peel stated that this was "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".
What can we take away from this?
This case is a useful reminder of several key points.
Leave your spouse out of your Will at your peril! It is highly likely a claim under the 1975 Act will follow, and the spouse will enjoy reasonable financial provision in all the circumstances, not just limited to her maintenance alone.
We were surprised that this matter ran to Court and didn’t resolve at Mediation, particularly given the family dynamic. If at all possible, engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution as Judges like to see courts as avenues of last resort.
Finally, the decision is a timely reminder for certain communities that have traditionally tended to favour the male line in Wills. It seems likely that Wills that favour the male line without considering the female spouse are likely to be successfully attacked at Court via the 1975 Act, particularly if the marriage between the Deceased and spouse was a lengthy and ongoing one.
If you, or someone you know, require legal support in relation to a contentious probate issue, please contact us for a no-obligation chat.