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Dispute Over Family Farms Can Be Avoided With Sound Planning

View profile for Richard Howells
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Sadly, disputes over family farms hit the headlines with increasing frequency, and a case that was dealt with by the High Court in recent months will have given many farming families pause for thought.

The case saw the Court of Appeal make a judgement in a long-running inheritance dispute between a son and his parents, following a High Court tussle.

The claim was brought by the son after his parents went back on promises they had made that he would inherit a large share of the family farm. He had worked in the business for more than three decades, since he was 16, often clocking up a 60 to 80 hour week, on a low wage.

When the relationship between parents and son broke down five years ago, he was asked to find another job, move his family out of the farm’s cottage and he was disinherited. He found himself in his 50s, with no home, livelihood or pension, despite putting in decades of work in the family business. The High Court found that it would be unconscionable to allow the parents to renege on their assurances and the Court of Appeal has now upheld that decision. The Judge has ordered the parents to pay their son the equivalent of the inheritance he was promised.

Making a detailed Will, drawn up willingly, and without outside influences, can help to pre-empt or prevent any claims that may be made against an estate. It is also advisable to prepare a statement outlining the reasons why the Will has been prepared in a particular way. This can be used as evidence if a claim is made against the estate, pushing back against your intentions. 

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.

JCP’s Lifetime Planning team is always on hand for tailored and professional legal support. Richard is Director and Head of the Lifetime Planning Disputes team who specialise in Litigation involving Wills, Estates, Trusts and Property. Contact Richard on or call 01267 248981.

Richard is ranked as a ‘Leading Individual’ for Contentious Trusts and Probate work (one of only four in Wales and the only one outside of Cardiff) by the Legal 500, which is the leading independent industry bible. The Legal 500 quotes him as being a 'highly experienced and intelligent’ team head and as ‘extraordinarily good with clients’, and is praised for his ‘focussed and clear advice’.