Sylvester v Sylvester HC11C00458






The deceased was born in Carriacou on 20 July 1925. She married her husband in 1953. He moved to London for work in the 1950s. She joined him in 1957. She died in London on 18 February 2008 aged 82, leaving a will dated 7 October 2007. The court had to decide whether she was domiciled in Carriacou or London at the date of her death in order to establish if it had jurisdiction to entertain a claim by the claimant pursuant to the Inheritance Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision out of the estate. The issue of domicile was ordered to be tried as a preliminary issue by an order of Master Moncaster dated 27 June 2011.


The factors counsel urged the court to take into account were as follows:

  1. (1) The deceased resided in England for a very long period from the date of her arrival. That, along with the purchase of a house, work and raising of a family in England, points towards a strong connection to England. The building of a comfortable house in Carriacou in the 1980s points the other way.
  2. (2) At the date of her death, the deceased had four children living in England and Wales and a number of grandchildren. Although she retained some connections in Carriacou, they were relatively limited. It is very likely the deceased wished to visit her grandchildren and in particular, the defendant’s children.
  3. (3) The deceased and her husband naturalised as British citizens although they remained citizens of Grenada. The deceased was on the electoral role for a long period of time. Her London address was used on her will, but as the will was prepared in London, this is unsurprising. These are factors to which some weight must be given but they only give a limited indication of intention.
  4. (4) Mrs Sylvester had bank accounts both in London and the West Indies. It significant that she retained accounts in the West Indies. However, there is no indication she showed great interest in managing her finances and it is probable the accounts were retained through inertia. On any view, she wished to retain a connection with Carriacou and wanted her family to retain that connection and preserve her familial heritage as indicated in her will.
  5. (5) Faith was a matter of considerable importance to the deceased. It is likely there was a formal transfer of her church record card from London to Carriacou in the late 1980s or early 1990s. However, there is no doubt she spent the majority of her time from 2000 to her death in London. It is plain she continued to be an active member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses while she was fit enough to do so and she was able to practise her faith whether she was in London or Carriacou. This factor does not assist the court.
  6. (6) A domicile of origin is of adhesive nature. Cogent and clear evidence is required to show that a domicile of choice has been acquired. Up to the late 1980s, the deceased’s intentions were not sufficiently clear to show she had shed her domicile of origin. It is telling that on retirement, the deceased and her husband reinstated and fortified their connections with Carriacou. The deceased’s husband retained his domicile of origin until death.
  7. (7) The deceased’s position was different. It was open to her to remain in Carriacou after her Mother’s death. Her state of mind changed following her husband’s death. While she went with the family to Carriacou in 2004, critically, she did not stay there. That visit in 2004 and her visit in 2006 were brief. This evidence points firmly towards her intention to live out her days in London.
  8. (8) An important factor in relation to acquisition of domicile is whether the choice is made independent of external factors. The practicalities of old age and ill health pointed strongly to a need to live in London. Whilst the health services in London were preferable to those in Carriacou, these were not matters of necessity. The deceased was able to exercise choice and chose London not Carriacou.

Having regard to the above factors, by early 2006 at the latest, the deceased had acquired a domicile of choice in England and Wales. She intended permanently to reside in England and Wales for the remainder of her life and in doing so shed her domicile of origin .

JUDGMENT [1] Mrs Christiana Sylvester was born in Carriacou on 20 July 1925. She died in London upon 18 February 2008 at the age of 82. The issue I have to decide is whether at the date of her death she was domiciled in Carriacou or in England and Wales. There is no doubt that …
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Counsel Details

Mr Nicholas Yell (1 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1LF, tel 0845 634 66 66, e-mail instructed by MFG Solicitors (Adam House, Birmingham Road, Kidderminster DY10 2SH, tel 01562 820 181, e-mail Ms Sarah Lawrenson (Kings Chambers, 36 Young Street, Manchester M3 3FT, tel 0161 832 9082, e-mail instructed by Freeman Jones Solicitors LLP (Herons Way, Chester Business Park, Chester CH4 9QR, tel 01244 893 133, e-mail for the defendant.

Cases Referenced

Legislation Referenced

  • Inheritance (Provision for Family and Defendants) Act 1975
  • Matrimonial Homes Act 1967