Divorcee death wrangle leads to £54million settlement delay

News Article

A former supermodel, who was awarded a record £53 million divorce settlement at the High Court in London, is being forced to wait for the money following the death of her Saudi billionaire ex-husband.

Sheikh Walid Juffali was ordered to pay Christina Estrada the lump sum, which is the largest ‘needs’ pay-out ever awarded by an English court, no later than 4pm on Friday July 29.

However, Dr Juffali died in a Zurich clinic from lung cancer a week before the payment was due.

Miss Estrada’s solicitors returned to the High Court to inform Mrs Justice Roberts – who had earlier said she awarded the lump sum to reflect the "exorbitant standard of living" and "magical" lifestyle enjoyed by their client – that the money had not been received.

Charles Howard QC, representing Miss Estrada, added that she had no “periodical payment or interest”.

But Mrs Justice Roberts said there was no need to issue an enforcement order at this stage, as she was confident that Dr Juffali’s estate would eventually pay up.

She said: “I continue to stress that Dr Juffali engaged with this process throughout his life time and following his death… I hope we will get this sorted out without the need for further litigation."

There had been fears that Miss Estrada might be forced to sue the estate’s beneficiaries – her own daughter and two step-daughters – in order to obtain her award.

Dr Juffali’s representatives have now been informed that unless the settlement is paid, a further hearing will take place in October to determine whether an enforcement order is required.

Lee McClellan, a partner and expert in estate administration matters, said: “This case highlights a number of important issues relating to the death of an estranged spouse.

“For example, in the event that Dr Juffali had died prior to the settlement order being finalised by the Court, but after the agreement had been concluded, Miss Estrada’s law team could still have argued that the parties had reached a concluded agreement – known as a Xydhias agreement – which is not yet a court order, but which you have been bound to.”

Lee continued: “In the absence of any binding agreement, the provision made for the estranged spouse would depend upon:

  • Whether the deceased left a Will;
  • If so, whether any provision is made for the estranged spouse within the Will
  • If not, what provision might be made for the estranged spouse under the intestacy rules
  • Whether or not decree absolute had been issued – if it had, the ex-spouse would not be entitled to share in the estate under the intestacy rules and if any Will pre-dated the decree absolute then the ex-spouse would no longer receive any inheritance left to them under the terms of the Will

“If the end result is that the estranged or former spouse receives no or limited benefit then they would have the right to pursue a claim against the estate [link to http://www.palmerslaw.co.uk/our-services/wills-trusts-probate/claiming-against-an-estate/] under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 and it would be left to the Court to decide what provision, if any, is made.

“This case underlines the importance of ensuring, wherever possible, that financial orders within divorce proceedings are implemented promptly and is also a reminder that anyone separating from their spouse or partner should ensure that they have an up to date will in place which meets their current circumstances and wishes.”

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