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Ask The Legal Expert - Preventing Inheritance Claims After Death

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My son has worked with me on the family farm for 20 years and I’ve told him in the past that he would inherit the business. However, we have had a serious rift. If I now leave the farm to his sister and mother could my son contest the Will upon my death?

Disputes over the inheritance of family farms are common, unfortunately, and they are upsetting for those concerned.  It is wise, if you have an estate to pass on, to tie up loose ends in good time.

You may have seen recent media reports about a family dispute which saw a son pursuing his parents through the High Court for the £1million farm he worked on for some years, although he ‘hated cows’. The son lost the case in this instance, but it highlights the importance of making a detailed Will, drawn up willingly, and without outside influences.

If you anticipate a claim may be made against the estate, it is also advisable to prepare a statement outlining the reasons why the Will has been prepared in this way. This can be used as evidence if a claim is made. Furthermore, it is important to revise your Will regularly when major life-changes occur. Be aware that there are instances when successful claims have been brought over the validity of a Will, which have resulted in an earlier version of the Will being recognised, so make sure your Will is drafted properly.

If, upon your death, your son decides he’s been short-changed he could bring a claim for proprietary estoppel – a successful proprietary estoppel claim can modify existing rights over property and give rise to new rights. Proprietary estoppel transfers rights if:

  • Someone is given a clear assurance that they will acquire a right over property
  • They then reasonably rely on this assurance, and,
  • They act substantially to their own detriment on the strength of the assurance
  • It would be unconscionable to go back on the assurance

In cases like these, the claimant could be awarded an interest in a farm or property if these elements of assurance, reliance, and detriment and unconscionability, are all found by the Court to be met.

For specialist legal advice, call Richard Howells on: 01267 248981 or email:

Welsh is spoken at JCP Solicitors’ Carmarthen office. 

Richard is Director and Head of the Lifetime Planning Disputes team who specialise in Litigation involving Wills, Estates, Trusts and Property.

For further advice, please contact our specialist Lifetime Planning solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 225472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671

The question posed is based on a hypothetical situation.