The High Court has adjusted an inheritance to make provision for a widow from the assets of her brother-in-law.
In Beg v Beg, Ehsan Beg died leaving a Will that provided for his entire Estate to go to his wife Amina Beg. Ehsan and Amina’s family home since 2008 was a property registered in the joint names of Ehsan and his mother until mother died in 2009 and in the joint names of Ehsan and his brother Arif Beg at the time of Ehsan’s death.
A dispute arose as to whether the brothers held the property as joint tenants as Arif contended (in which case the property passed to Arif outside the Estate by survivorship), or as tenants-in-common (meaning that Ehsan's interest in the house would pass to Amina under the terms of the Will). On this point, the Court determined that the property was held by the brothers as beneficial joint tenants so Ehsan's one half beneficial interest passed by survivorship to Arif.
Amina made a claim in the alternative under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for an order that the property be brought back into the Estate pursuant to s9 of the 1975 Act and be transferred to her by way of provision under the Act. Amina claimed that if the family home passed to Arif by survivorship, she would not receive reasonable financial provision from her husband's Estate. The Estate included a second property but it was mortgaged and let out and, even if Amina could bring the tenancy to an end, she lacked the funds to discharge the mortgage over the second property and the lack of rental income would have left her in financial difficulties.
In considering the claim brought by Amina under the 1975 Act, the Court found that if the tenants were required to leave the rental property, Amina would have no way of meeting the mortgage instalments and she lacked the capital to discharge the outstanding mortgage of £80,000.
In balancing the competing claims, the Court determined that Arif should make a payment back into the Estate in the sum of £80,000 to be used to discharge the mortgage on the second property and thereby provide a mortgage-free home for Amina and her child. The payment of £80,000 was to be made by Arif either by a sale of the former family or by other means.
Although on the face of it this judgment requires Arif to pay money into his brother's Estate, the decision is an adjustment of Ehsan's Estate, drawing £80,000 of his interest in the property back into his Estate to benefit his wife and child.
The decision in Beg v Beg shows the importance of considering all possible claims in an Estate dispute and bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to protect a spouse and child.
Property disputes can often arise following a death, particularly if ownership has not been clearly established and recorded as assets pass through generations. An Estate dispute can easily arise where someone making a Will does not accurately assess the nature and extent of the property they own – leading to a situation where they have not left adequate provision for family members.
The decision in Beg v Beg shows that the Court will look at ways in which to satisfy competing claims and to give effect to the intentions of the testator, ensuring that reasonable financial provision is made available to a spouse.
For more information, please contact a member of our Contentious Trust & Probate team.
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