A widow and her four daughters have been awarded a share of their late husband and father’s estate after he left them out of his Will.
The UK high court ruled in favour of Harbans Kaur after she challenged the succession of the late Karnail Singh’s estate worth more than £1m ($1.2m, €1.1m).
Singh, who died in 2021, left his estate solely to his two sons as he wished to pass it down the “male line”, leaving his wife and four daughters high and dry.
But the female members of the family rejected Singh’s wishes and the widow brought a claim before the high court.
Kaur estimated her late husband’s estate to have had a gross value of £1.9m, but one of her sons claimed it was actually worth £1.2m.
As a result, justice Peel ruled in the widow’s favour awarding her 50% of the net value of the estate, claiming this was a “reasonable provision”, especially considering her income consisted solely of state benefits of around £12,000.
According to Peel, the reasoning for this was that Kaur had an “active role” both in the marriage of 66 years and in the family clothing business, meaning that she should be entitled to a “full and equal contribution”.
‘Fairness will prevail’
Jennifer Ray, partner at law firm DMH Stallard, said: “The high court decision to award Harbans Kaur a 50% share of her late husband’s estate is a strong reminder to those preparing their Wills to note that while they do have complete testamentary freedom, the courts will ensure fairness prevails if those the deceased has a duty to provide for are left out of the Will.
“Claims such as Kaur’s are made under the Inheritance Act 1975 and are increasingly common.
“They can arise in families where there is a cultural tradition of leaving wealth to male descendants or where someone has failed to make a Will and in a variety of other circumstances.
“Claims are not limited to spouses but also include:
- Co-habitees ex-spouses and ex-civil partners;
- Children of the deceased, children of the family and adult children; and/or
- Anybody who may have been wholly or partially maintained by the deceased or supported by the deceased financially before their death.
“To make a claim you need to set out that you have certain needs and that you have a right for these needs to be met by the estate. Such claims must usually be made within six months from the date that the grant of probate being issued. It is therefore important for anyone seeking provision to act quickly.”