The solicitor behind the recent Inheritance Act 1975 case of Kaur v Singh has said an “important precedent has been set” after helping a vulnerable widow secure her fair share of her late husband’s £1.9 million-plus estate despite being left out of his will.
The case of Harbans Kaur (Kaur v Estate of Karnail Singh & Ors  EWHC 304 (Fam)) has made headlines across the UK after the High Court ruled that the 83-year-old widow should be entitled to financial provisions to support her in later life.
Within the original will, her husband Karnail Singh determined that his two sons should inherit his estate and that his wife and four daughters would receive nothing.
In response, Mrs Kaur decided to take legal action as she was left without financial support to assist her with her complex care needs and had to move in with one of her daughters.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Peel was told that Mr Singh had outlined how the estate should be left “solely down the male line”. This was despite, as the judgment says, Mrs Kaur making a “full and equal contribution to the marriage” through her work in the family clothing business and as a wife and mother. It was therefore clear that “reasonable provision” had not been made for Mrs Kaur who was reliant on state benefits of around £12,000 after her husband’s passing.
Meadows Ryan’s Jessika Bhatti, acting on behalf of Mrs Kaur and represented in court by Oliver Ingham, sought to secure fair financial provisions for her to support her lifestyle requirements.
Jessika applied for the matter to be disposed of summarily and it then proceeded to the Family Division of the High Court and was effectively undefended by Mr Singh and Mrs Kaur’s two sons.
As a result, Mr Justice Peel disposed of the matter without a trial and published his findings that set out a new, important legal precedent.
In his conclusion, the court found that the deceased estate failed to make reasonable provision for Mrs Kaur and that she should receive half of the net value of the estate and an interim payment of £20,000.
Speaking after the case, Jessika Bhatti said:
“I feel privileged to be a part of an injustice made right. This judgment has opened the door to many other families and individuals who find themselves in similar circumstances.
My client’s age, ill health and acute financial needs were the driving force behind this case, and it is with great honour that our legal system was able to overturn an injustice.
The case will now act as a precedent to ensure the most vulnerable individuals seek justice at the earliest opportunity without enduring the unpleasantries of a trial.”
Following the outcome of the case, Jessika revealed that she had been contacted by several individuals who felt they have been disinherited under similar circumstances and who she was now assisting.
She said that separation through a divorce, rather than death, would have afforded Mrs Kaur more rights and the courts would have started at a point of a 50% share of matrimonial assets.
However, she said that the current justice system had “strong provisions” to challenge a will, which this case had demonstrated.
Jessika said that not only did the case provide other disinherited family members with an option for legal redress, but that it should stand as a stark caution to other solicitors about the dangers of disinheritance.
“In this case, we were able to settle matters quickly and effectively without having to take the matter further through the courts,” she explained.
“However, if this matter had been disputed this could have dragged on for years costing the families thousands and significantly reducing the value of the estate.
This case will impact will drafters to be mindful when advising their client in terms of disinheriting any close family member such as a spouse, son or daughter.
I would hope the Judgment will cause will drafters to highlight the problems and detrimental effect of failing to make a reasonable provision for close family and dependants and to those entitled to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.”