After 66 years of marriage, Mrs Kaur, who was in her 80s, found herself entirely excluded from her late husband’s £1.2m estate, along with her four daughters. Her husband wished for his wealth to be passed down the ‘male line’ to his two sons and wrote his will to this effect.
In the UK, testators enjoy testamentary freedom and are therefore under no obligation to leave their estate to their spouse or wider family. However, if an individual is left out of a will or has not inherited what they believe they should have, they may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 for ‘reasonable financial provision’.
This is exactly what Mrs Kaur did when, following the death of her husband, she found herself living off state benefits of around £12,000 per year. Moreover, she was in poor health and had been forced to leave the family home when one of her sons, with whom relations were strained, moved in.
Mrs Kaur was awarded 50% of her husband’s estate. £20,000 of this was to be made available to her immediately and her costs were to be paid by the estate. The judge concluded Mrs Kaur had made a full and equal contribution to the marriage and therefore it was hard to see how any other conclusion could have been reached; it was clear that reasonable provision had not been made for her.
This case highlights the fact that whilst we all have testamentary freedom, the court will not allow spouses to simply be excluded. The case further demonstrates that religious and/or cultural reasons for excluding a spouse are not justified.
In 2023, society will not accept a situation in which a husband can disinherit a wife who has made a full and equal contribution to the marriage in favour of his sons, simply because they are male. This case shows that gender-based discrimination arising from testamentary freedom will not be upheld by the courts.
The 1975 Act therefore provides important protection for those who have been unreasonably excluded from a will.
How we can help
Have you been left out of a will from which you expected to benefit?
Our team of specialist contentious probate lawyers can assist you on a range of inheritance dispute matters, whether bringing them or defending them. We focus on resolving the matter and working with you to find an amicable and cost-effective solution, ideally without the need for court proceedings. However, if court cannot be avoided then we have plenty of experience in successfully representing clients at court and we fight hard to protect your interests while offering pragmatic and constructive advice.
If you would like to discuss a potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act please contact the Contentious Probate team on 0808 164 0808.