01 June 2020

A recent High Court case has highlighted the importance of estate planning for farmers. Matthew and James Wills have just been awarded £350,000 worth of farmland and outbuildings from the estate of the late Tony Sowry after the court agreed that Mr Sowry had for many years promised the brothers that they would inherit it. They made a claim under ‘proprietary estoppel’, which is where the person to whom a promise has been made relies on that promise to their subsequent detriment. In this case Matthew had worked on Mr Sowry’s Harrogate farm for 20 years and James had been promised the land on which he had built his house.

Mr Sowry had not left a Will at all, so under intestacy his estate passed to his daughter Claire. The Court ruled that she would still inherit her father’s farmhouse, valued at £150,000.

To prevent leaving such a costly and lengthy dispute for your family and loved ones, it is important that you take advice on succession planning for your assets and have a professionally drawn up Will. This was an unusual case as it involved friends, rather than family, but it demonstrates that such cases can be successful even if the claimant is not a family member.

Our private client team can advise you on succession planning and Wills. Alternatively, if you feel you should have inherited from an estate, our Dispute Resolution team can advise you on an inheritance or promissory estoppel claim.

For more information, contact Christine Butterfield on 01305 216205 or