An 83-year-old British Sikh widow has won her legal battle in the London High Court to a “reasonable” share of 50 per cent of her late husband’s estate, worth an estimated 1.2 million pounds, after he died over a year ago leaving it all to their two sons in a will.
Justice Robert Peel concluded in a ruling this week that he was satisfied that Karnail Singh did not make reasonable provision for Harbans Kaur, his wife of 66 years, despite her “full and equal contribution” to the marriage and also to the family’s erstwhile clothing business.
According to the court documents, one of the sons who is a beneficiary of the will did not oppose his mother’s claim, but the second son did not participate in the proceedings.
“I am satisfied that a) the deceased’s estate did not make reasonable provision for C [Claimant Harbans Kaur]; b) C should receive 50 per cent of the net value of the estate, and the disposition of the estate affected by the will should be varied to that effect,” Justice Peel concluded.
He also directed that a sum of 20,000 pounds should be “forthwith paid to the claimant” from the estate by way of monies on account of final distribution to her and her legal costs should also be met out of the estate, deducted from the gross value of the estate before an equal division.
“After a marriage of 66 years, to which she made a full and equal contribution, and during which all the assets accrued, she is left with next to nothing,” reads the judgment handed down on Tuesday.
“She does not pursue a case, sometimes advanced in financial remedies proceedings, that she should receive a greater share than 50 per cent in order to meet her needs. Her intention is to purchase a modest property near her daughter,” the judge notes.
The judgment follows a hearing in the family division of the High Court earlier this month, which heard that Karnail Singh passed away in August 2021 and under a will dated back to June 2005, the estate was left in equal shares to their two sons.
The reason why the will excluded his wife and their four daughters was that Singh had wished to leave his estate “solely down the male line”.
The court was told that as a result, Kaur’s income consists of taxpayer-funded state benefits at just under 12,000 pounds per annum, with very modest assets.
She also suffers from a number of medical conditions and is registered as a disabled person.
Since the death of her husband, she also moved out of the family home because one of the sons, with whom relations are very strained, moved in.
She currently lives with her daughter and wishes to have enough funds to be able to buy a place nearby.
The judgment notes that while one of her sons did not resist the claim, “no doubt seeing the injustice which would be done to his mother were she to exit with nil provision”, the second son had not participated.
The judge took note that Kaur is “elderly and impoverished”, and therefore it would be unreasonable to prolong proceedings without a clear justification for doing so.
“I treat the claim as undefended. The facts do not appear to be in dispute. It would not be proportionate in the circumstances to await further clarification of the value of the estate pending final decision on the claim,” the judge concluded.
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