Son able to inherit farm even though he fell out with his parents

A judge has ruled that a son was entitled to a share of the family farm, despite having fallen out with his parents, because he had worked for more than 30 years on the understanding that the land would pass to him

The High Court heard that in 1981, the parents made wills under which the son and his brother would inherit the farm property and business equally.

The son worked for the family business since leaving school in 1982 and lived in a cottage on the farm.

He worked long hours for low pay. He also gained agricultural qualifications and played a key role in growing the business.

In 2007, the family took over the tenancy of a neighbouring farm and expanded its operations. The family’s other son then joined the partnership.

The relationship between the parents and the first son broke down. He left the business and gained employment elsewhere.

The parents made a new will excluding him from any entitlement to inherit the family business. They also gave him notice to move out of the cottage.

He made a claim for a capital payment by way of a clean break. He claimed he was entitled to a proportion of the family business given that he had worked for low pay for more than 30 years after being given that assurance.

The father denied he had ever made any promises to his son about his inheritance.

The court ruled in favour of the son. The breakdown in family relations meant that a clean break had to be achieved by means of a lump sum payment to the son. This consisted of 50% of the market value of the original farming business and 40% of the value of the original farm buildings.

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Cases featured

Son entitled to inherit farm despite falling out with parents
[2019] EWHC 869 (Ch)
Ch D (Judge Russen QC) 16/04/2019