Widow awarded £80,000 from brother-in-law’s inheritance

Beneficiary that inherited a one-half beneficial interest in a house by survivorship, is ordered to return £80,000 in equity to the estate of his dead brother.

In the recent High Court case of Beg v Beg, 2021 EWHC 2598 Ch, the deceased Ehsan Beg left a will bequeathing his estate in full to his wife Amina Beg. Following Ehsan’s deaths a dispute arose regarding the family home that Ehsan and Amina lived in before his death, as it was registered to Ehsan and his brother Arif Beg. The house had been owned by Ehsan and Arif’s mother until she died in 2009, but clarification around whether the brothers held the property as beneficial joint tenants or as beneficial tenants-in-common, was missing.

The dispute centred around claims by Arif that the house was held under a joint tenancy and that he therefore automatically inherited his brother’s share through survivorship, regardless of his brother’s will. Amina argued that the brothers had held the house as tenants-in-common and so her husband’s share should pass to her under the will.

Amina also brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, that her late husband’s inheritance share should be brought back to his estate and transferred to her by way of provision.

Although Ehsan had intended, in his will, to provide for his wife and child by ensuring that they had a home to live in, the operation of the will did not make reasonable provision for this because of the decision by Cooke HHJ that the family home had been held as a beneficial joint tenancy and that Ehsan’s one-half beneficial interest passed by survivorship to Arif.

In the case it was found that Ehsan also owned a second house which was mortgaged and rented out to a tenant. This house was inherited by Amina but in order to live there she would need to terminate the present tenancy and therefore lose the income derived from the tenancy to pay the mortgage agreement. The judge assessed that Amina had no way of meeting the required mortgage payments, or capital payment of £80,000, as her income from benefits would not be sufficient.

An order was therefore made that, despite Arif now being the owner of the house, Ehsan’s joint interest in his family home be returned back into his estate to the value of £80,000. This meant that Arif would either need to sell the house or pay the sum of £80,000 by other means, in which case full ownership of the house would return to him. Cooke HHJ stated that the money paid to Ehsan’s estate should be used to pay off the mortgage on the second home so that Amina and her son would have a home to live in mortgage-free.

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