Domicile of choice and inheritance

Posted: 9th March 2016

RCJThe issue of where you are domiciled at the time of your death can have critical implications for your heirs. In one case which made that point, the High Court ruled that it had no power to award a businessman’s second wife a share of his estate because he had made a permanent home abroad before he died.

The man, who came from Birmingham, had moved to Gambia in 1994 and spent the majority of his time there before he died 17 years later. He married his second wife there in 2000 and they had a daughter together. By his will, he divided his substantial estate between that daughter and two others from his first marriage. He left nothing to his wife.

His wife applied to the High Court for reasonable provision from his estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Given that the statute only applies to the estates of those who are domiciled in England and Wales at the date of their deaths, it was agreed that her claim could not succeed if that was not the case.

Ruling that his ‘domicile of choice’ was in Gambia, the Court noted that he had built a splendid home there and converted to Islam. He had told relatives that he had fallen in love with the country, wanted to be buried there and had no intention of returning to Britain to live. In those circumstances, the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the second wife’s claim.