Promised an inheritance

What can you do if you were promised an inheritance but that promise has not been honoured?

Can I make an inheritance claim where someone has gone back on their word? To find out, call our free legal helpline on 0333 888 0407 or send us an email.

’Don’t worry I will look after you,”  is a pledge that many people receive from a parent or close relative. It is often associated with a promise that certain property or assets will pass to them on their death. Those to whom these promises are made frequently rely on them and make plans on the assumption that they will be honoured. But what happens if the assurance is not fulfilled? What can you do if you are promised an inheritance that never materialises?

One legal option that can be explored in these circumstances is the doctrine of promissory estoppel. For a legal action based on promissory estoppel to succeed, three core elements need to be established:

  1. Was a promise made to you?
  2. Did you believe and rely on that promise?
  3. Did you suffer detriment as a result of that promise not being honoured? .

An example of the type of promise we often see in these cases is, ‘If you work in the family business, I will leave it all to you when I die.’

The second element will then be satisfied if, in this scenario, that person relies on the promise and devotes their working life to the family business.

Finally, if they worked in the business for little or no return for a long period of time on the understanding that it would be left to them, then they are likely to be able to show that they have suffered detriment if the promise is subsequently reneged on.

Because each of these elements need to be satisfied, proprietary estoppel can be difficult to establish. The courts need to balance the doctrine of proprietary estoppel with the principle of ‘’testamentary freedom’’ – which is the right under English and Welsh law for individuals to leave their estate to whoever they wish. To simply argue that the will is unfair, or does not satisfy a pledge that had been previously made is not enough in itself to succeed in a proprietary estoppel claim.

If the requirements of proprietary estoppel can not be established then there may be other legal avenues that can be explored. For example, we can look at whether there are grounds to make a claim under the Inheritance Act.

So, if you have been promised an inheritance, but that promise has not been honoured, then reach out to our team today to discuss your claim. We offer a free case assessment service and can often deal with cases on a No Win, No Fee basis.

Call us on 0333 888 0407 or email us at [email protected] 


Promised an inheritance