Widow wins High Court battle after husband leaves her nothing in will

A widow whose husband left her nothing in his will has won a High Court fight for a share of his estate worth – worth more than £1 million.

Harbans Kaur had been married to husband Karnail Singh for 66 years.

But when he died, he left everything to his two sons and nothing to his wife or four daughters, a judge was told.

Mr Justice Peel heard that Mr Singh, who died in 2021, ‘wished to leave his estate solely down the male line’.

He heard that Mrs Kaur estimated his estate to be worth £1.9 million, gross, but one of her sons put the value at £1.2 million.

The judge, who heard the family had run a clothing business, ruled Mrs Kaur should get 50% of the net value of the estate.

He said it was clear ‘reasonable provision’ had not been made for the widow, whose income consisted of state benefits of around £12,000.

Mr Justice Peel has outlined detail of his decision in a written ruling after considering evidence at a recent hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

‘The claimant and the deceased married in 1955, so that by the time of his death they had been married for about 66 years,’ said the judge in his ruling.

‘They had seven children, of whom one sadly is deceased.’

He said evidence showed Mrs Kaur had played a ‘full role’ in the marriage and worked in the family clothing business.

‘By (a) will, dated 25 June 2005, the estate was left in equal shares to two of the children… the sons of the claimant and the deceased,” said the judge.

‘The reason why the will was crafted in these terms, excluding the claimant and the other four siblings, was because the deceased wished to leave his estate solely down the male line.’

He added: ‘It seems to me that this is the clearest possible case entitling me to conclude that reasonable provision has not been made for the claimant. It is hard to see how any other conclusion can be reached. 

‘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.’

He said she should ‘receive 50% of the net value of the estate’.

Lawyer Heledd Wyn, who is based at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said the ruling should be a warning.

‘This decision is evidence that people cannot simply be cut out of wills, especially spouses which have contributed for a significant number of years,” she said.

‘The court has been very clear on this matter and has ruled in the interest of fairness.’

She added: ‘The High Court’s decision should serve as a warning to anyone considering making rash or unfair decisions about who to have as beneficiaries to their estates.’

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