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Sons lose appeal in family inheritance dispute

The partner of a man who died less than two years after they began living together has won the right to money from his estate.

In Kaur v Dhaliwal, the couple met in 2005, a few months after the death of the man’s first wife. They had been married for 25 years but she took her own life. He was charged with and later acquitted of triggering the suicide.

The couple became engaged quickly, dividing their time between the home he shared with his two sons and her flat. They decided to keep their relationship secret until after the oldest son’s wedding.

Sitting in the Chancery Division of the High Court, Mr Justice Barling explained:

“The Deceased owned and ran a café at Hounslow station, and the Claimant began to work with him there, eventually giving up her own job as a carer to work with him full-time 7 days a week.”

He added:

“The [sons] soon found out about the relationship, and strongly disapproved of it.”

Eventually the couple moved into their own flat. Sadly, the man died after the couple had been living together in that flat for one year and 49 weeks – just three weeks less than the two year minimum period required by the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Section 1 (1A) of this states that a person make claim that “the disposition of the deceased’s estate … is not such as to make reasonable financial provision for the applicant” if

“…during the whole of the period of two years ending immediately before the date when the deceased died, the person was living—

(a)in the same household as the deceased, and

(b)as the husband or wife of the deceased…”

However, a judge found that the couple did meet the requirement for a two year period as they had taken “every opportunity for them to be together” prior to their cohabitation.

Her two sons unsuccessfully appealed the ruling. There was a dispute as to whether a three month period, when the couple lived together in a separate flat, could count towards the cohabitation period.

But Mr Justice Barling said the judge had been entitled to reach this conclusions, namely that:

“…the parties’ settled relationship….continued throughout the disputed period until the Deceased’s death. Those facts included the following: that day in, day out, throughout the disputed period, the parties were together working in the Deceased’s café….”

He added:

“The learned Judge’s conclusion in this regard was not dependent upon him finding that they were living under the same roof at any particular time or place within the disputed period. His finding in that respect was that their relationship….continued “in full measure”… In my view, for the reasons I have stated, that was an approach which was open to him on a proper application of the principles….”

Read the full judgement here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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