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On 8 December 2016 the Court of Appeal (“CA”) delivered this decision of interest to practitioners especially those dealing with property matters including relationship property and estates.

The Miahs insured the life of Mrs Miah, Mr Miah was bankrupted then Mrs Miah died.  AXA declined the claim which the Official Assignee (“OA”) accepted in relation to Mr Miah’s estate. Mr Miah sued as executor when he was discharged from bankruptcy. AXA asserted he took by survivorship and his interest had passed to the OA.  The AXA view was adopted by the High Court and the claim stuck out.

Mr and Mrs Miah were defined as the policy owner.  The CA found they jointly owned the policy and its benefits. The CA accepted this ownership could be as tenants in common and as joint tenants with varying entitlements to benefits. The CA’s preliminary position on the facts was they were joint tenants so survivorship applied.  It went on to find it arguable severance was not excluded in circumstances such as estrangement or bankruptcy.  This result would protect Mrs Miah’s interest in the policy for a claim by her executor.

This decision illustrates the care that is required where the devolution of ownership is material to advice.  This arises frequently where death and relationship property interact.  While the decision is not substantive it demonstrates the complexities with special application to insurance with some wider lesson.

Alan Sorrell