Kaur v Singh- A Widow’s Challenge
Posted on 4th July 2023 at 10:24
Kaur v Singh 2023 tells the story of a widow who was disinherited from the Will of her late husband along with her four daughters. The kicker, they had been married for 66 years!
Mrs Kaur, 83, appealed in the High Court and won 50% of the £1.2m estate with the judgment being handed down on Valentine’s Day 2023 (the irony).
The problem raised by Kaur v Singh is that individuals making a Will in the UK have what is called ‘testamentary freedom’. This means that they can leave their estate to whomever they wish, in what proportions they wish. However, a growing number of cases seem to challenge the idea of testamentary freedom and instead take into consideration morals, modern family values and ethics.
The result in Kaur v Singh is not notable with many claims by spouses under the Inheritance Act being successful where judges adopt the divorce standard but sets a precedent that reasonable provision should be made to avoid such cases in the future.
Mr Karnail Singh and Mrs Harbans Kaur had married in 1955. They had 6 surviving adult children, 2 boys and 4 girls.
The couple had previously owned a family clothing business, but Mrs Kaur had no stake and did not receive any salary.
Mr Singh controlled the family and household finances which had built up over the course of the marriage and in the judgment Justice Peel held that Mrs Kaur made a ‘full and equal contribution to the marriage’ (White v White 2000) and was dependent on her husband financially. Mrs Kaur had made significant contributions to the family as a wife and mother but also in the business.
At the time of the hearing, Mrs Kaur had modest assets, her only income being state benefits of approximately £12,000 per year. Mrs Kaur also suffered from health issues.
Application of the Law
Considering the matter, Justice Peel considered the factors relevant to the claim under Section 3 of the Inheritance Act and in particular, the ‘divorce cross check’ or ‘deemed divorce test’ under Section 3(2).
This allows the court to have regard to the provision Mrs Kaur may reasonably have expected to receive ‘if on the day on which the deceased died the marriage, instead of being terminated by death, had been terminated by a divorce order’.
It was clear applying this test, that Mrs Kaur had not been left reasonable provision.
Why is this notable?
Why all the interest in this case?
Now, in 2023, society can find it unreasonable to consider a situation where a wife who makes a ‘full and equal contribution to the marriage’ is completely disinherited by her husband and left relying on the goodwill of her sons.
It also brings to the forefront the idea of misogyny, a wife unable to manage or receive funds, being managed by male heirs, a concept which is constantly being challenged in the modern era and pushed aside.
These types of cases can be seen in contrast to cases such as Ilot v Mitson where the estate was left to charity instead of family members and there was a successful challenge by an estranged daughter, calling in into question testamentary freedom and causing upset in the private client world.
The conclusion in this case is that we can enjoy a certain level of testamentary freedom but this must be balanced.
What can I do to avoid a similar situation?
If you are ready to write your Will and deal with your estate planning, we can assist you with the careful preparation of your Will, ensuring that you exercise your testamentary freedom but that we consider any potential claims to your estate and how best to deal with these. We can also provide tax mitigation advice.
At Avery Walters our team of specialists can also provide advice about Lasting Powers of Attorney, Trusts and Probate.
Contact us on 0113 2007480 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your free initial, no-obligation consultation with a specialist.
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