Inheritance disputes and broken promises

Inheritance disputes and broken promises: What can you do when someone goes back on a promised inheritance?

As another inheritance dispute involving broken promises hit the headlines we look at what you can do if you have been deprived of your promised inheritance. We specialise in inheritance disputes and broken promises and operate a free legal helpline which you can call on 0808 139 1599 for a case assessment and details of no win, no fee funding. Alternatively you can send us an email.

The inheritance dispute

The case of Moore v Moore involved a Wiltshire farm which had been passed down by a father to two of his three sons, Roger and Geoffrey. They had gone on to build up a very large and successful farming business valued in the region of £10 million.

Roger had two children – Stephen and Julie. Stephen worked on the farm since childhood, while Julie was more academic and pursued different career options. It was always the intention that Stephen would one day inherit the farm. Geoffrey gave his interest in the farm to Stephen at a significant undervalue, firmly believing that Roger would do likewise so as to pass the farm down to the next generation and to keep it going in the family name. This was despite Geoffrey having children of his own that he could have passed his share in the farm to.

Following Geoffrey’s retirement and control of the business gradually passing to Stephen, allied with Roger’s mental health beginning to deteriorate, relations within the family started to become strained. Furthermore, Roger’s Wife, Pamela, began to become the driver of matters and the dispute quickly escalated. Pamela was increasingly upset at Stephen receiving far more than her daughter, Julie, and wanted Roger to go back on the promises he had made.

Broken promises

The legal principle of ‘Proprietary Estoppel’ is based on equitable principles of fairness and justice. In essence, it states that if promises are made and a person relies on those promises to their detriment, then it would be unconscionable for the promise not to be upheld.

The Judge decided that Roger had made promises to Stephen to the effect that he would inherit his interest in the farming business, that Stephen had relied on those promises to his detriment by working in and devoting his life to the farm for very little pay, and that it would not be just for Roger to go back on those promises.

Accordingly, the court decided that Stephen should receive the entirety of Roger’s interest in the farm, subject to his having to provide for Roger and Pamela’s housing and care needs.

The appeal

Pamela has obtained permission to appeal that Judgment. While allowing her to appeal, the court has urged the parties to engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution to avoid escalating legal costs in what is already a lengthy inheritance dispute extending over a number of years and involving considerable legal costs.

How we can help with inheritance disputes and broken promises

If you are involved in an inheritance dispute where there has been broken promises then please contact us on 0808 139 1599 or send us an email at [email protected] for a free case assessment and details of no win, no fee funding.

Inheritance disputes and broken promises