Farmer’s Son did not inherit any part of his father’s £3 million estate
A case in the High Court this week has attracted national media attention. However, it is a situation which is not uncommon, particularly in rural and farming communities.
Allen James died in 2012, leaving a wife, two daughters and a son. During his lifetime he built up a farming business and a haulage company worth £3 million.
Between 2007 and 2009, Allen gifted hundreds of acres of land to one of his daughters, and transferred various assets into the joint names of himself and his wife. In 2010, he made a will leaving his estate to his wife and daughters only. His son, Sam James, was not left a single penny.
Being disinherited would cause anyone disappointment, however, in this case, Sam claims that the farm (the most valuable asset) had been promised to him by his father. Relying on that promise, Sam committed 35 years of his life working at the farm for little reward. He is described as being the “driving force” behind the business. Sam also claims that his father had been “stricken” with dementia and did not have sufficient capacity to make a will in 2010. In addition, he believes that his mother placed undue influence on Allen to make the 2010 will.
Sam’s predicament is a surprisingly common occurrence, particularly in the farming community. Family members often work for little or no reward because promises of inheritance have been made. Often such promises have not been recorded and there can be very little evidence to support such a claim. This variably leaves family members disgruntled and claims then arise on a person’s death. Such claims can take years to resolve.
In Sam’s case, his father died in 2012 and the case has only now reached the High Court. Until disputes of this nature have been resolved, the estate cannot be distributed. Also, the legal costs incurred by all the parties involved can have a significant effect on the value of the estate.
Sam’s case is ongoing and the judgment is expected in the next month or so. We will provide you with an update following this.
GA’s wills, inheritance and trust disputes team are experts in dealing with situations such as Sam’s, where promises are made and then relied upon to a person’s detriment. Not limited to just farming, this often happens on a smaller scale such as a family home. It is quite often the case that a person is promised a share in a property if they invest in an extension, or if they provide care to a disabled or elderly individual. Situations also arise where a person pays towards a deposit on a house, or helps with mortgage payments, but are not listed as a legal owner of the property. The relationship breaks down, and the person who has invested, often considerable sums, is now out of pocket.
If you are ever made a promise which requires you to pay money to another person, or will see you impacted detrimentally, make sure you keep evidence of the promise and any investment. At the outset you should enter into a deed of trust which records your interest in a property. You can also consider pre or post nuptial agreements, or cohabitation agreements which can protect your interests when parting with money, especially when the property is owned by another person. Taking such steps early on can protect you from a possible future dispute if your relationship breaks down.
If you are involved in a dispute or find yourself in a situation similar to Sam, then you need legal and professional advice. Contact the wills, inheritance and trust disputes team by calling 01752 203500 or email me via anna.wonnacott@GAsolicitors.com.