Domicile in inheritance claims

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Domicile in inheritance claims can play a very important role. But determining someone’s domicile isn’t always as easy as you think.

The courts have recently confirmed that a person’s domicile of origin is not easily displaced.

Domicile in inheritance claims is an important concept and the Inheritance Act 1975 makes specific reference to it.

The default position is that a person receives at birth a domicile of origin. That domicile of origin remains applicable throughout a person’s life, unless they acquire a domicile of choice.

A domicile of choice arises where there is a combination of residence together with an intention of permanent or indefinite residence.

Lawyers commonly refer to the domicile of origin as “sticky”. This means that clear and unambiguous evidence is required to establish a change from the domicile of origin. If a domicile of choice is alleged then a court will consider all the evidence of a person’s residence and their intention to reside in that country permanently or indefinitely.

The case Morris v Davies and Others involved an Englishman who had lived and worked in Belgium since 2001. He retained a UK passport and a UK driving licence. He did not speak Flemish and he maintained bank accounts in England. Most of his friends were English and some years earlier he had described himself as a Briton resident in Belgium. He was planning to get married in England and expressed a desire to send any children to an English boarding school.

Lawyers arguing that he retained his domicile of origin described him simply as “an Englishman abroad”. They won the day. The court agreed there was insufficient evidence to establish a domicile of choice and that his domicile of origin remained applicable.

Lee Dawkins is a solicitor in Slee Blackwell’s contentious probate department and specialises in claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. For guidance on domicile in inheritance claims or a free inheritance dispute case assessment call our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1606.