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Case details

Audrey Sheila Flowers (formerly Audrey Sheila Scavella) and another (Respondents) v Bria Scavella and 2 others (Appellants) (Bahamas)

Case ID: JCPC 2023/0056

Jurisdiction: Court of Appeal of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas

Case summary

Issue

William Graham Scavella died on 19 November 2012. At the time of his death, he was married to Audrey Flowers (previously Scavella), and they were joint tenants of a property on which they had taken out a mortgage. The couple were jointly and severally liable for the debt. Mr Scavella had a life insurance policy which became payable to his estate when he died. Mr Scavella had previously been married to Gina Scavella, with whom he had had two children.

Facts

William Graham Scavella died on 19 November 2012. At the time of his death, he was married to Audrey Flowers (previously Scavella), and they were joint tenants of a property on which they had taken out a mortgage. The couple were jointly and severally liable for the debt. Mr Scavella had a life insurance policy which became payable to his estate when he died. Mr Scavella had previously been married to Gina Scavella, with whom he had had two children.

Mr Scavella died without a will. His widow obtained Letters of Administration and became the administrator of his estate.

Mr Scavella's former wife and their children brought a claim against Mrs Flowers, on the basis that she had failed to make payments out of the Mr Graham's estate that were owed to his children under the rules of intestacy. Both sides agreed that, under the law, half of the residue of Mr Graham's estate belonged to Mrs Flowers as his widow, and the other half to his surviving children.

Mr Scavella's children argued that Mrs Flowers was not entitled as a Personal Representative to use any of the insurance monies to make payments towards the mortgage, and that instead half of the insurance proceeds should have been paid to them first. They argued that section 65 of the Probate and Administration of Estates Act prevented Mrs Flowers from applying the full insurance proceeds to the debt previously owed jointly by her and the deceased.

The children succeeded in their claim before the High Court, which ordered Mrs Flowers to repay the money owed. Mrs Flowers appealed to the Court of Appeal, which allowed her appeal. The Court of Appeal held that section 65 did not apply to the circumstances of the case. Mrs Flowers was entitled and obliged to use the proceeds of the insurance policy to pay off the debt of the estate before distributing any money to the beneficiaries, and the money owed under the mortgage was greater than the insurance proceeds. The children and their mother were granted permission to appeal the Court of Appeal's decision to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Parties

Appellant

(1) Bria Scavella, (2) Gina Scavella (Mother & Next Friend of Erin Scavella, an Infant), (3) Gina Scavella

Respondent

(1) Audrey Sheila Flowers (Personal Representative of William Graham Scavella), (2) Audrey Sheila Flowers (formerly Audrey Sheila Scavella)

Appeal

Justices

Lord Lloyd Jones, Lord Briggs, Lord Sales, Lord Stephens, Lord Richards

Hearing start date

8 July 2024

Hearing finish date

8 July 2024

Watch hearing
8 July 2024 Morning session Afternoon session