Will disputes and some recent news for Inheritance Act claims

What happens in short marriage cases where the surviving spouse is left inadequately provided for? Some recent analysis of this is provided by Mr Justice Briggs whose very clear Judgment in Lilleyman v Lilleyman is of considerable assistance. The surviving spouse (Mrs Lilleyman – the widow) received only 10% of her late husband’s estate. Unfair or eminently sensible? Taking Mr Justice Briggs Judgment at face value, I would say it was rather fair. The late Mr Lilleyman’s sons (the product of an earlier marriage) were wholly reliant on their late father’s business. Arguably the business could not afford to be encumbered by the cost of an extravagent award to the widow (although these businesses were able to provide a seven figure pension payment to the children without any adverse effect – the children declined to give evidence of their means, possibly a sensible decision!). The court distilled what it considered to be matrimonial assets to a relatively small proportion of the estate and yet conversely it awarded getting on for half of this to the widow. Looking at it this way, the decision was quite generous. However, these decisions are very different to the situation on divorce notwithstanding the divorce “cross check” simply because it can be argued (by the widow) that her husband should be providing for her for life whereas divorce ends that legal obligation to a large extent.

It seems to me then that the critical factor here is the identification of the matrimonial assets, in particular the separation of the business assets from them. Clearly though if the Judge had found a substantial contribution to the business wealth creation on the part of the widow, they would have been included and the children’s position could have been much worse.