Court Of Appeal Backs Daughter In Dispute About Farm Stake

Legal Disputes With Parents In Relation To Beneficial Interest In Property

13.05.2014

The Court of Appeal has upheld a previous ruling on a case which will mean a woman who worked on her parents’ farm for no wage when she was younger is set to get a beneficial interest in the business.

Eirian Davies was assured repeatedly by her parents that she would inherit the majority of Caeremlyn Farm in Carmarthenshire, but changes subsequently made to a draft will meant she would share a trust in the property with her sisters.

However, the Court of Appeal has backed a previous decision in the case which stated that Mrs Davies was deserving of a greater share of the farm due to the promises made and the work she had undertaken on the site for little or no wages.

The court heard how she missed out on social events and other activities enjoyed by her sister, while she was staying at home and working.

Lord Justice Floyd said the case was “tragic” and mentioned that the “bitterness between the parties was such that each had few, if any, good words to say about the other”.

Expert Opinion
This is a very interesting case that puts a spotlight on an issue which is a lot more common than many people may realise.

"It essentially reflects the concept of proprietary estoppel, in which a person has relied on a promise made by parents or family for a great number of years to their detriment, only to subsequently discover that it has been broken in a will.

"Such issues are particularly common when it comes to the farming sector, particularly as many such operations rely on family members to take up and continue the management of the property following the death of a loved one. This case is particularly interesting as there was evidence to suggest that even if she had worked elsewhere, she would not have been better paid. However, the court still upheld her claim.

"Like many estate disputes, this kind of case can be incredibly emotionally draining and costly for all involved. This is why we would always recommend that people speak to their friends and family about succession planning and the decisions they intend to make in a will.

"By sitting down with loved ones to talk through such issues, they will hopefully have a chance to clearly outline their decisions and why they have been made. This should ultimately mean that all parties understand their position and avoid any potential legal battles. Sadly those conversations do not always happen and beneficiaries can be on the receiving end of broken promises. There are various types of legal claim which can be brought in these circumstances therefore it is important to take advice quickly."
Julia Burns, Associate