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Ask The Legal Expert- Inheritance And The Family Farm

View profile for Richard Howells
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Our Ask The Legal Expert blog gets the latest specialist advice from the specialist Rural Practice team at JCP Solicitors. This month, Partner Richard Howells talks about a very common legal issue– inheritance disputes arising over family farms.

Q) I have worked on the family farm, for very little pay, since I left school 30 years ago, whilst my brother and sister have gone onto careers away from the farm. My parents often promise me that they will leave the farm to me, but are reluctant to make Wills. I am worried about the future. What should I do?

“Working and practicing in a rural area I see many cases of disputes over wills that involve farms. Sadly, your situation is all too familiar, where one sibling remains ‘at home’ to work the family farm, often for small financial rewards, and often having made the decision to forgo further education or other career opportunities in order to do so. Meanwhile, other siblings might have left the area and pursued further education and perhaps more lucrative careers away from the farm".

“In many of these cases there has been an understanding within the family that the offspring who took on the responsibilities of working the farm would go on to inherit it once the parents pass away".

“But if the parents die without leaving a will the estate, including the farm, would then be split between all of the siblings. In the alternative, the parents may have made a will that does not follow through on the promises made during their lifetime".

“Legal claims to the farm by the “disappointed child” are often brought under the principles of what is known as proprietary estoppel, and their success often hinges upon whether someone has acted substantially to their detriment on the strength of promises made regarding inheritance".

“As you can imagine, these are emotive cases and my specialism in this area of law helps me to deal with families who are at odds in this way".

“I am one of only five solicitors practicing in Wales who has a diploma from the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) – so I am a specialist in this field".

“And here at JCP we have another great asset in this area – Beverly Bowen, whose sole practice is centred upon succession planning in the rural sector – this helps families to put measures in place ahead of time to prevent these disputes ever arising".

“I’m pleased to say that of the many cases like this I deal with, most never get to court. I realise that is a bit like hearing a boxer say he never gets any fights, but once these cases get to court they can tear families apart irreparably, and the costs incurred can be significant. So the ideal scenario is to resolve it in a satisfactory way before that happens, or if that is not possible, by sensible discussion and agreement as early as possible in the dispute”

For specialist legal advice, call Richard Howells in the JCP Solicitors Rural Practice Team on: 01267 266946 or email richard.howells@jcpsolicitors.co.uk

The question posed in this blog is based on a hypothetical situation.

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