Broken farm inheritance promises lead to court battles

Promises made about farming inheritance are being tested in court when the person making the promise changes their mind.
 
Recent cases such as that of Eirian Davies, dubbed the Cowshed Cinderella made national headlines and the rise in land values may be prompting an increase in the number of challenges, say advisers.

The cases rely on a little-known area of law called proprietary estoppel.

This can be used by a person who claims a promise or assurance was made to them in the past about the inheritance or likely inheritance of property, commonly farmland.

See also: Farmer’s daughter awarded £1.3m from parents

The claimant must show that the assurance was made and that they had relied on it to their detriment – for example by working for little or no reward in the expectation of the longer term reward of the inheritance.

The key is not to promise anything unless you really mean it, because a change of heart can be open to a costly and emotionally draining court process, warn advisers.

Our in-depth feature explains how this area of law worked in two recent cases where children challenged their parents. 

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