Farmer’s son wins appeal

2 May 2013

The son was promised land on the death of his father but this was not written into the Will instead his sister inherited father's estate.  He therefore, challenged his father's Will under the principle of proprietary estoppel

Proprietary estoppel is a type of claim bought when someone has been promised an interest in land/property and acts in reliance on this to their detriment, having been encouraged to do so by the promisor.

In this case the deceased died leaving 400 acres of farmland, some properties and cash of approximately £150,000.  The deceased's Will left everything to his daughter, stating that she should transfer the farm to her brother only if he proved he could run it.  However, the Will did not create an explicit trust. In this instance there were another two daughters who were not left anything in the Will either.

The brother challenged the Will under the principle of proprietary estoppel, claiming that his father had promised him on several occasions the land.  Last year, the High Court awarded him a three-quarter share in the estate, including the farmhouse he lived in.

The sister appealed, claiming that he could not farm the land as he had not graduated from agricultural college, despite attending it, and he had already spent some inheritance (of a smaller sum of approx £38,000) he had received from another family member.  However, he had recently being running his own business, with his father's support.

According to the latest reports, the Appeal Court has rejected the appeal and ruled that the brother will receive the land and farmhouse as the Judge found proprietary estoppel did apply.

If you are involved in agriculture or the farming industry we can advise you on planning your affairs to minimise the inheritance tax on your estate and to avoid events such as those described in this article.

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