Inheritance disputes can arise for people in all walks of life, but are particularly prevalent among farming families – often due to the complex ways farms are held and run, or poor succession planning.

Julie Bradwell, Litigation Solicitor and agricultural specialist at Ware & Kay incorporating Pearsons & Ward Solicitors in Malton, York & Wetherby, explains how farming inheritance wrangles commonly arise, and outlines your options if you feel you have not received your fair share in a Will.

A farming Will could be challenged for a range of reasons including claims for:

Proprietary estoppel

A common cause of farming inheritance disputes is where the testator promised to leave you something in the Will, and you relied on this pledge to your detriment, but the promise was broken.

This might arise, for example, if you have spent years helping your parents on the farm, expending time, money and effort on the basis that you have been promised the lion’s share or all of the farming business when they die.

If, after they pass away, you find you have only received the same amount as your non-farming siblings, for example, you may persuade a court to give you the share you were promised on the grounds that it would be unconscionable not to do so, even though this is contrary to the Will.

You would need to show the promise was made which could be by inference (delete either verbally or in writing), and provide evidence of the detriment you suffered which could be:

• loss of the money you may have spent on the farm, including household repairs, new septic tanks, barn building farming equipment, contractors or property development;

• loss of time that you spent working long hours on the farm;

• loss of earnings you could have made had you not worked for low wages on the farm.

• Add -Loss of housing provision previously provided by the farm if it is intended the farm housing is to be sold.

Will Invalidity

A Will must be signed, witnessed, and made voluntarily by a person of sound mind, without duress. If these requirements are not fulfilled, the Will may be declared invalid.

If, therefore, you feel the testator was not in their right mind when the Will was drafted, that fraud was involved, that the Will was incorrectly drawn up, or that someone applied undue pressure on the testator to leave them farm assets, you may be able to contest the Will during the probate process.

If you are successful, the Will would be pronounced invalid, and the preceding valid Will would take its place. If there is no previous Will, the farm and its assets would be distributed to surviving family members according to the strict rules of intestacy – which may mean the farming business having to be sold to satisfy all the beneficiaries.

Reasonable Financial Provision Claim

You may make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 if you were financially maintained by the testator before they died, such as being provided with accommodation and you were either excluded from the Will or you were not left enough to meet your needs. Also children, including adult and non –biological children, treated as a child by the deceased, spouses and former spouses, non- married partners living with the deceased for 2 years or more before the deceased died, depending on the facts may bring claims.

How we can help you

Our Inheritance, Wills & Trust Disputes Lawyers have vast experience at resolving tricky farming inheritance disputes and, if you want to contest a Will, we are here to help.

We can quickly assess whether you have a valid claim and then try to spare you a costly court battle by reaching a resolution through negotiation. If the matter does go to court, they will help you gather necessary evidence, take care of all the paperwork and offer advice and representation until the matter is concluded.

Please contact Julie Bradwell on Malton 01653 692247 or email for further information and to see how we can help.