5 April 2011 by

Polygamous Marriage and Intestacy

Bigamy, as we all know, is unlawful in the UK. However, polygamous marriage is legal in several other parts of the world and the UK will recognise any marriage that lawfully took place abroad. The issue of polygamous marriage can therefore on occasion affect the operation of UK law.

The High Court was asked last month to rule on just such an issue in Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts v Yemoh and others [2010] EWHC 3727. The Court was asked how certain succession laws would apply in the case of a Ghanaian man who, at his death, was lawfully married to two women under the laws of Ghana, who died without leaving a Will and who owned land in the UK. Most of the issues had been considered by the Courts before. However, the question of how to divide an estate under the intestacy laws when there are two or more people who could validly call themselves a spouse of the deceased had not.

The starting point here is that land in England is governed by English law, not the law of the deceased’s country of domicile or nationality. As the deceased did not leave a Will the land must be divided between family members in accordance with the intestacy laws set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. This is where the problems started, as these rules say a spouse is entitled to the deceased’s personal possessions, the first £250,000 of the estate and the income produced by half of whatever is left – the other half goes to the children.

The question then is do the spouses share the normal legacy or do they each receive a lump sum of £250,000?

After considering similar cases relating to matrimonial relief, public policy considerations and statutory rules on interpretation of legislation the Court ruled that where two or more people had an equally valid claim to a spouse’s entitlement under the intestacy laws, those people would share the spouse’s statutory legacy of £250,000 and the income of half of the remainder of the estate.

That’s not necessarily the end of the matter though; if after application of that rule any one or more of the deceased’s spouses feel they have not received reasonable provision from the deceased’s estate they can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

The Court probably acted as fairly as it could in this case, although really there’s only one lesson to be drawn from this, and that’s to make a valid Will, or perhaps not to marry more than one person in the first place!

4 April 2011 by

Budget News key points affecting the residential property market

The latest Budget, announced by George Osborne on the 23 March 2011 included various measures that are likely to have an affect on the residential property market.

5 April 2011 by Sarah Davies

Referral Fees

For several years now, some solicitors have tried to maintain their levels of new instructions by paying estate agents referral fees. The fee is paid to the agent, usually on the completion of a deal, as a thank you for recommending the client to the firm.

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