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Proprietary Estoppel in Farming Families: Understanding Rights and Claims

View profile for Richard Howells
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In the realm of farming families and inheritance, proprietary estoppel can play a significant role in addressing claims and rights concerning property and land. This legal doctrine, often prevalent in agricultural settings, aims to address situations where assurances or promises have been made, leading to expectations that are not fulfilled.

What is Proprietary Estoppel?

Proprietary estoppel is a legal principle that prevents a landowner from going back on their word when someone else has reasonably relied on their assurances and suffered a detriment as a result. In farming families, it commonly arises when there are assurances or promises made regarding the transfer of property or land that are not fulfilled.

Farming Context

In farming, situations may arise where a family member, is promised or led to believe they will inherit or take over the family farm. Relying on these promises, they might dedicate their time, resources, and efforts to the farm, assuming they will receive the property or part of it in the future.

Elements of Proprietary Estoppel

For proprietary estoppel to apply, three key elements are generally required:

  • Assurance or Promise: There must be a clear assurance, promise, or representation regarding the inheritance or transfer of land or property
  • Reliance: The person to whom the assurance was made must have reasonably relied on this promise, leading them to believe it was genuine
  • Detriment: As a result of relying on the promise, the person must have suffered a measurable detriment, such as financial loss or altering their position significantly

Legal Implications

In cases where proprietary estoppel is successfully claimed, the court might enforce the promise or assurance made, or compensate the claimant for the detriment they’ve suffered due to relying on the promise.


In farming families, proprietary estoppel serves as a legal safeguard, ensuring that promises and assurances made regarding inheritance or property transfers are honoured or compensated if reliance on these assurances leads to a detriment. It provides a means for individuals who have invested their time, effort, and resources based on assurances to seek justice and protection in the eyes of the law.

If you have any queries or concerns, contact our Inheritance and Trusts Disputes team on or 03333 208644.