Who will inherit your estate – promises and arguments


Solicitor Chris Dickinson explains the importance of knowing what is in your estate and who you have promised it to.

From time to time, families will talk about the future and parents will often give an indication to their children of what they can expect to inherit when they pass away. However, relationships and circumstances can change over time and this may influence how people choose to leave their estates.

In the recent case of Davies v Davies, an elderly couple owned a farm worth in the region of £4m. They had three children. One of their daughters worked on the farm for 25 years for a minimal wage as she helped support its upkeep. The other two children did not work on the farm as they were progressing their own careers. The parents had repeatedly promised their daughter that she would eventually inherit the farm from them in recognition of her commitment to its maintenance.

After a family dispute, the couple had a falling out with their daughter and sought proceedings to evict her from the farm. In turn, the daughter claimed that she had a beneficial interest in the farm through her commitment to its upkeep and the promises made by her parents. The daughter also claimed that she had worked for a minimum wage on the understanding she would inherit the farm and, if this was not going to be the case, that she would have pursued a more fruitful career like her siblings.

The judge agreed with the daughter’s argument that she had acted to her own detriment in reliance on her parents’ promise and made an award of £1.3m to her. The parents appealed this decision and were successful in having the daughter’s award reduced to £500,000.

Cases like this demonstrate the importance of knowing what is in your estate, who you intend to benefit, whether there are likely to be any claims brought against you or your estate and, ultimately, seeking proper legal advice to ensure your affairs are in order. 


If you would like to discuss your affairs and have your Will prepared or updated,please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Department who can expertly guide you through the process. Call 01708 229 444 or email mail@pinneytalfourd.co.uk
This article was written by Chris Dickinson, an Associate Solicitor in our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at August 2016.


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