Can the Court override your Will?

Can the Court override your Will?

This year, the High Court considered the case of Thompson v Thompson [2018] EWHC 1338 (Ch), a case involving a son who claimed he was promised all his life by his parents that he would inherit the family farm on their death.

The Claimant was one of five siblings but his parent’s only son. He claimed that he had dedicated his life to working and living on the farm on the back of promises from his parents that he would inherit it all when they died. As such, he claimed he had acted to his detriment, giving up the possibility of having any independence – something which his sisters had gained – accepting low wages, not pursuing qualifications or purchasing his own property.

The Claimant’s mother survived her husband, denied making such promises and wished to distribute the farm amongst all of the children. The son claimed he should receive the entire farm.

The Court found in favour of the son. It accepted that (1) the farm had been promised to him, (2) that he had reasonably relied on that promise, (3) that he had acted to his detriment because of it and (4) that it would be unconscionable to deny him the farm – a principle known as ‘Proprietary Estoppel’. To remedy this, the Court ordered that the son would receive the farm on his mother’s death.

The ruling overrides any Will made by his mother and also overrides the default intestacy rules (the rules applied if a person dies without a making a valid Will) that would have seen her estate divided equally between the five children.

This decision emphasises the importance of estate planning and the need to consider how you would like your assets divided on your death.

If you have any queries about estate planning or require advice, contact your local Everys office.