A recent inheritance dispute case which attracted much attention from the press and legal commentators alike, saw the deceased’s wife awarded 50% of his estate.
This case centred on the Will of Karnail Singh which left the whole of his estate to his two sons. Nothing had been included for his wife, Mrs Kaur, or four daughters. The Will reflected Mr Singh’s wishes to leave his estate solely down the male line.
For Mrs Kaur, the court ultimately determined that it “is the clearest possible case…to conclude that reasonable provision had not been made” and made an order that Mrs Kaur should receive 50% of the net value of the estate.
In this article, Director & Contentious Probate Lawyer, Nicola Parr highlights the background and facts of the case, and also outline what your options are if you feel you haven’t been provided for in a relative’s Will.
Background to the Case – Kaur v Estate of Karnail Singh & Ors  EWHC 403 (Fam)
Mrs Kaur brought the claim as although she had played a role in the family business and been married for 66 years, she had limited assets in her own name. Following her husband’s death, her only income was state benefits of approximately £12,000 per year.
In contrast, Mr Singh’s estate was valued at between £1.2 and just under £2 million and comprised of the family home, four residential properties, a commercial property as well as some property and land in India.
Mrs Kaur brought a claim against the estate of her husband as well as her two sons under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the “Act”) on the basis that the Will did not make “reasonable financial provision” for her.
Section 3 of the Act lists the factors that the court will take into consideration when deciding whether to make an order. These are set out below:
- 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 for an order under section 2 of this Act 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 said section 2 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 said section 2 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.
Where the claim is brought by either a spouse or civil partner of the deceased or a former spouse or civil partner who has not formed a subsequent marriage or civil partnership, the court will consider the additional following factors:
- the age of the applicant and the duration of the marriage or civil partnership;
- the contribution made by the applicant to the welfare of the family of the deceased, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family.
When considering spouses, the court will view any entitlement on death against what the spouse would have received on divorce, and the “surviving spouse should not ordinarily be worse off as a widow than as a hypothetical divorcee.”
The court made an order that Mrs Kaur should receive 50% of the net value of the estate.
What Are My Options If I Feel I Haven’t Been Provided For in a Relative’s Will?
Whilst the facts of this case are relatively unique, it’s quite common for individuals to feel that they have not been adequately provided for in the Will of a relative.
The courts seek to protect the concept of testamentary freedom, and there is limited scope to alter the terms of a Will that has been validly executed. Despite this, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 can be relied upon in some circumstances if “reasonable provision” has not been made for a certain category of persons.
What is reasonable will depend on what category the claimant falls into.
If you are the spouse, civil partner or former spouse or civil partner, the court will look at what is reasonable in all the circumstances.
If, however, you are the child of the deceased, a person who was treated as a child of the family by the deceased or any other person who immediately before the deceased’s death was being maintained, wholly or partly by the deceased, what is reasonable provision will be what was required for your maintenance only.
When deciding upon what is reasonable, the court will look at the Section 3 factors set out above.
You would be required to disclose your assets and liabilities so the court can assess what your current level of maintenance is and what value would be reasonable if an award were made. You also have to act relatively quickly if you believe you have a claim – you only have six months from the Grant of Representation to the estate to issue a claim in the Court.
What Should You Do?
If you believe that you have not received reasonable financial provision and you fall into one of the applicable categories, you should definitely get legal advice quickly. Doing so can help you understand what’s involved and how best to proceed.
Posted on June 8, 2023