Will you succeed?

Another year starts and, before you know it, along comes another case of assumed succession resulting in a messy court case. The latest example originates from Dorset with a farm valued at £3m at stake.

As so often happens, the son had worked on the farm for his entire life and believed that he would inherit it on the death of his father, believing that he had been “promised” such an outcome. It nearly came to pass as such a Will was drawn up back in 2004 but never executed. The son had received land, capital and a haulage business from his Father during his lifetime, so his Mother felt that other family members should benefit on her husband’s death.

On the Father’s death, aged 81, his last Will revealed that his son had been specifically excluded from inheriting and the estate was to be split between his wife and two daughters. A little peeved, the son promptly sued his Mother and sisters for what he believed was rightly his.

The Judge ruled against him. He believed that the father was of sound mind when he made the Will and that the division of the total asset pool was rational and balanced given how the son had benefited during his father’s lifetime. The Judge went as far as to state “In my judgment, Sam’s eagerness to inherit the farmland from his father has caused him to persuade himself that he was being promised something when he was not.”

We all know that making an assumption is a great deal easier than sitting down with the family and having a full and frank discussion regarding future plans. Sadly, only the latter can possibly result in the effective succession of assets. Naturally, here at Sintons we would be delighted to assist in both scenarios.

If you were not to engage us to assist with proper succession planning, and chose instead to rely on false promises and wild assumptions, then we may also be able to help sort out the likely messy outcome. We have recently been joined by Emma Saunders who has come to Sintons from a top London law firm. She is a rare specialist in contentious probate and disputed Court of Protection matters, as well as disputes arising from Trusts. Another string to our heavily strung bow!

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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