Father Allegedly Suffered From Dementia
A farmer’s son is suing his family for a portion of the £3m farming estate and business his deceased father left to his wife and daughters, with claims from the son that he was promised the farm.
Sam James, son of farmer Allen James, claims that his mother Sandra James pressured his father to change his will before his death. James also states his father suffered from dementia and that his illness was so advanced that he lacked the capacity to make another will, making the will that was drawn up in 2010 invalid.
The son stated his work on the farm’s estate and business for 35 years after leaving school, plus several conversations with his father before he died left him under the impression that he was set to inherit the Pennymore farming estate.
The mother, Sandra James, disputes the claim that her son is due the Pennymore estate as in 2007 the deceased gifted his daughter, Karen James, 193 acres of land from the estate. In 2009 the deceased put £800,000 and the remaining portion of the farm into a joint account between himself and his wife.
Disputes over wills can often be a fraught time for families, particularly if it causes a rift between two previously friendly parties. The importance of creating a valid will becomes even more important while the will holder still has capacity in order to avoid situations where family members might lose access to millions that they believed to be rightfully theirs.
Expert Opinion“Sam James had devoted his whole life to Pennymore farm, having left school early to work on the estate and business. Representing Sam, Penelope Reed QC described him as an ‘absolute grafter’ who ‘worked his socks off’. It therefore came as a complete shock when Sam learnt that his father had left his entire estate to his mother and sisters and left nothing to him.
“Sadly this is a common occurrence in relation to rural estates where wills are either old and out of date, not reviewed when major life change occur such as divorce, or sometimes wills aren’t even made at all.
“In this case, Sam is claiming that his father lacked the necessary mental capacity to sign his will in 2010 and that his mother and sisters exerted influence over him so that they may benefit under the will. If Sam is successful in challenging the validity of the 2010 will and it is set aside, then he will either benefit under an earlier will, properly executed by Allen James, or if none exists under the rules of intestacy.
“This case highlights the importance of ensuring that a valid will is prepared and signed properly, with no outside influences and at a time when the person making the will fully understands and approves the contents of their will and the consequences of the gifts therein. It is also good practice to have a discussion with family and friends about your intentions for your assets so that they are not shocked when the estate is administered.” Hannah Worricker - Solicitor
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