Bereavement Damages

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francesca01 | 22:00 Thu 09th Aug 2018 | Law
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My father passed away two years ago and I have recently received a copy of his final account. I note from it that there is a bereavement damages payment made to his estranged wife in the sum of £12,900 via Irwin Mitchell regarding a claim my father made before his passing relating to asbestos in his previous job. My question is how can the wife be entitled to anything if they had separated several years before his death?


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If he was still legally married to her and had not written a Will she will automatically inherit his Estate.
Question Author
He did leave a will, a she wasn’t in it!
The exact wording of the will is of great importance in a case like this. If, say, it ended with "the residue of my my estate I give in its entirety to Fred Bloggs" then (assuming that the will didn't say anything specific about who should receive the asbestos-related payment) I would have expected Fred to get the sum in question.

However if the will only said "I give my car to Hilda Smith, my house to Tom Price and everything in my bank account at the time of my death to Fred Bloggs" then there's no instruction in the will which covers the relevant payment. In which case a 'partial intestacy' is created, meaning that the payment (and anything else not covered under the terms of the will) is dealt with as if your father died without leaving a will. (That would explain why it passed to his estranged wife).

You need to examine the exact wording of the will carefully, to find out which part of it would have included the asbestos-related payment. If you can find such a term then it seems possible that the estate has been wrongly distributed. However if there's no such term it would seem that everything is (legally) in order, even if it's not what your father would have wanted.
I believe this is a bereavement payment under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. It is a fixed sum which is normally only paid to a spouse and it falls outside of the estate. If the estranged wife was still married, she would still be entitled - it is irrelevant what the Wills says.
Thanks for that explanation, Barmaid. I was wondering what "bereavement damages" actually meant in the question.

(Even so, as it doesn't form part of the estate, I can't see why the payment should appear in the "final account" anyway).
It shouldnt be. But that is a mistake often made.
bit here now we know what they are

I thought they werent claimable - so it is lucky I dont practise in Law
Question Author
I have looked at the wording of the will and there is no mention of his estranged wife or indeed the asbestos claim, the latter was not settled until after his death so I presume that’s why there’s no mention.
On the final account it states:
Asbestos claim: £xxxxx (Irwin Mitchell)
Bereavement damages payable to Mrs xxxxx
£xxxxx (Irwin Mitchell)
This person left him after thirty years of marriage, they were separated for about three years and she only crawled out of the woodwork when she heard he had terminal cancer relating to his previous employment and had made a claim against them.
If it’s all legal of course I’ll accept that but it does seem a bit strange that she can receive “bereavement damages” when they were estranged and going through a divorce.
If they were not divorced then it is perfectly OK.
Question Author
ok barmaid thank you for your expertise and time. Greatly appreciated.

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