83-Year-Old Widow Wins Right To Her Share of Husband’s £1m Estate
A Will is generally considered to be a legally binding contract that dictates exactly how a recently deceased individual’s estate is passed on – including who is due to inherit and how much they are set to receive.
However a recent court case has highlighted that a Will is not always set in stone and that, in the right circumstances, the contents of a Will can be successfully challenged and overturned – without having to go to a full trial.
83-year-old widow Harbans Kaur successfully challenged her late husband’s Will after he left everything to his two sons and nothing to either her or his four daughters, with the court ruling that she should get 50% of the net value of his estate.
This is especially fortuitous for Mrs Kaur as her late husband (Karnail Singh) has an estate with an estimated value of more than £1m.
It’s unusual for a court to rule in favour of a challenge to a Will without trial, especially as there is no evidence that the Mr Singh’s Will was unlawful, or invalid.
However, despite Mr Singh’s wish to leave his estate solely down the male line, it was ruled that no “reasonable provision” had been made for his wife of 66 years. As her income consisted solely of state benefits totalling about £12,000, her lawyer successfully argued that there was “no conceivable argument” that financial provision should not have been made for her.
Mr Singh excluded his wife and daughters from his Will not out of any particular ill-will towards them but rather down to a “traditional attitude” towards British Asian inheritance whereby the sons of a family are expected to look after the mother and married daughters become the ‘responsibility’ of their husband’s family.
Due to Mrs Kaur’s “age, ill health and acute financial needs”, her lawyers were able to successfully argue that her omission from her husband’s Will effectively amounted to an “injustice” given that she would otherwise have lacked sufficient means to provide for herself.
Mrs Kaur’s lawyer, Jessica Bhatti, said she believed the case would set a precedent that could allow the “most vulnerable individuals” to seek justice without having to endure “the unpleasantries of a trial”.
Dicky Davies, Co-founder and Business Development Director at Tower Street Finance said: “Cases such as this highlight how even when a Will is in place, an inheritance cannot be assumed or taken for granted. Though the process of passing on an estate is usually straightforward, in certain situations there can be complications that result in the actual distribution of an estate being quite different to what may have originally been envisioned.
“This can leave beneficiaries in a position where they might need to dispute an inheritance, which is why we have designed products that enable them to access their inheritance sooner, including Inheritance Dispute Funding to cover legal fees and Inheritance Advance for any other use.”