Widow granted injunction to prevent husband’s will being challenged

A widow has been granted a court order to prevent her deceased husband’s children from challenging his will under the Italian legal system.

The deceased was born in Italy but moved to England aged 20, where he remained resident until he died aged 78 in 2018. His entire working life and most of his assets were in England, although he retained some interests in property and family connections in Italy.

He became a British citizen and raised a family in England, his two adult children from his first marriage. His widow was his second wife, whom he married in 2008 some years after his first wife’s death.

His final will in 2017 gave £50,000 each to his two children and the residue of his estate to his widow.

His matrimonial home with his widow was in their joint names and vested in her by right of survivorship. She began the process of applying for probate of the will in early 2019, which was granted in July.

Shortly before the grant, the children filed proceedings in Italy alleging that, under Italian law, the widow was disqualified from inheriting from the deceased by reason of “unworthy conduct” and that, as the deceased’s children, they were entitled to a compulsory share of his succession, including the matrimonial home.

They also disputed the validity of the will and where the deceased was living before his death.

The court found in favour of the widow and granted an anti-suit injunction restraining the children from continuing proceedings in Italy.

It held that the court had jurisdiction over the children given that they were British citizens who were born and resident in England.

England was the natural forum for dealing with the questions relating to the deceased’s assets at the time of his death. He was a naturalised British citizen who lived and worked in England for most of his life, paid taxes in England, and died and was buried in England.

There were no personal advantages of which the children might be deprived if they were required to litigate in England rather than Italy. Nor did the Italian claim confer any advantages on the children that were of any weight in England.

English law would not enforce a judgment of the Italian court in so far as it sought to apply municipal Italian law to English immovable property.

Given that the natural forum for the dispute was in England and any Italian judgment would have limited effect, it would be vexatious and oppressive to continue the proceedings in Italy.

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