High Court Comes to Aid of Widow Left Almost Penniless by Husband’s Will

Failing to make reasonable provision for your dependants in your will is to positively invite discord between your loved ones after you are gone. That was certainly so in the case of a man who bequeathed not a penny to his elderly widow.

The man wanted his fortune – which was estimated to be worth up to £1.99 million – to pass solely down the male line. By his will, he divided his estate equally between his two sons. He made no provision at all for his four daughters or his widow, to whom he had been married for about 66 years.

Following his death, his widow, aged 83 and in failing health, moved out of the family home after one of the sons, with whom she had a very strained relationship, moved in. She lived with one of the daughters but had very few assets of her own. Her income consisted of under £12,000 a year in state benefits.

After she launched proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, the High Court noted that it was a clear-cut case of a will failing to make reasonable provision for a financial dependant. All the husband’s wealth had been accumulated during a very long marriage to which his wife had made a full and equal contribution.

Although she had worked for years in the family business, she had no direct stake in it and received no salary. She was financially dependent on her husband, who took charge of money matters and met all the family outgoings. Had the marriage ended in divorce, she would have been entitled to half his assets; yet, by the terms of his will, she was left with next to nothing.

In effectively rewriting the will, the Court ordered that the widow should have half of her husband’s estate. Such an inheritance would be sufficient comfortably to meet her reasonable capital and income needs and would enable her to purchase a modest home close to her daughter.