Jurisdiction in Inheritance Act Claims and The Merry Widow
Will claim Solicitors, specialist no win no fee will dispute and will contest Solicitors, discuss how the court’s jurisdiction works in Inheritance Act claims and the “merry widow”
How does the Court’s jurisdiction works in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975?
Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 are claims for financial provision from the deceased’s estate which are usually made where no or insufficient financial provision is made under a Will (or by the rules of intestacy) for a near relative or dependant. For further information and a comparison with other types of Will Dispute or Will contest claims, consider the following blog under “insufficient inheritance”:
Harbans Kaur v The estate of Karnail Singh and 2 others  EWHC 304 (Fam)
This is a claim under the Inheritance Act for a disappointed widow who was left nothing under her late husband’s Will notwithstanding a 66 year marriage and 7 children of which more below. At the very start of the decision there is a helpful guide to the court’s jurisdiction for the these claims which fellow practitioners (Solicitors) might find helpful (or already know!). In summary:
- Claims of this nature which are started in the Chancery Division will usually be suitable for transfer to the Family Division
- The CPR rather than the FPR applies – CPR 57.15(2)
- However if the claim is issued in the Family Division or transferred there, the parties must comply with the requirements as to bundles and preliminary documents set out in PD27A of the FPR 2010
- The general rule (as per CPR 39.2(1)) is that the hearing is to be in public
- Within a family law context, it is only the Family Division which may hear an Inheritance Act claim – The Family Court does not have equivalent jurisdiction
- District Judges of the Principle Registry of the Family Division can hear these claims
Some points about “Kaur v The estate of Karnail Singh”
This case has been widely reported in the mainstream press:
In a slightly surprising decision given the widow who is 83 years old (and therefore one imagines she has a very limited life expectancy), was awarded half of the deceased’s estate (which had a value in excess of £1.2m). Nevertheless, she had had a 66 year marriage and 7 children. Further the estate assets appear to have been accumulated during the marriage.
In this case though the claim was undefended, perhaps not surprisingly, by the two children who inherited the estate. The court was able to consider and approve the claim on the papers only. Here are extracts [paragraphs 25 and 27 from the Judgment by Mr Justice Peel].
Weighing up all the factors in s3, it seems to me that this is the clearest possible case entitling me to conclude that reasonable provision has not been made for C. 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 divorce cross check points unerringly towards an equal division of the assets. C expressly avers that such a division would meet her needs; she does not pursue a case, sometimes advanced in financial remedies proceedings, that she should receive a greater share than 50% in order to meet her needs. Her intention is to purchase a modest property near her daughter. Her income requirements are modest, and C accepts that all her capital and budgetary needs can comfortably be met within the sums available if she receives an equal share, whether her half share is of a gross estate value at £1.99m, or a gross estate value at £1.2m.
It seems to me that it is just and reasonable to dispose of the issues to the extent possible at this hearing. D2 does not resist the claim, no doubt seeing the injustice which would be done to his mother were she to exit with nil provision. D3 has not participated. Neither have put in written evidence to challenge the two witness statements from C. I treat the claim as undefended. The facts do not appear to be in dispute. It would not be proportionate in the circumstances to await further clarification of the value of the estate pending final decision on the claim. C is elderly and impoverished, and it is unreasonable to prolong proceedings unless there is clear justification for doing so. I am satisfied that in the circumstances of this case I can, and should, make a decision summarily. It should be well understood by all concerned that a “summary” decision does not mean that I have not given the case careful and anxious consideration. I have. I have read the bundle in full, as well as the skeleton argument on behalf of C. I have listened to oral submissions. “Summary”, in this context, means that I do not consider it necessary to embark upon more detailed inquiry into the substantive merits, whether through more written evidence, or a detailed disclosure exercise.
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