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Son to inherit family farm against mothers wishes

The context of the case Thompson v Thompson [2018] is as follows: the son, his mother and his father each owned a one third share of the farm. The son worked on the farm all his life at a very low wage, never buying his own property, and in effect giving up the possibility of any independence and any life outside the farm. He did this because he was relying on the fact that his parents told him in return for his work, one day the farm would be his. When his father died his one third share went to his mother and family relationships deteriorated. The mother decided she wanted to distribute her share of the farm elsewhere and not pass it to the son.

The High Court held the son had in fact acquired an interest in the farm through proprietory estoppel, which is a way of creating an interest in a piece of land without the correct formalities. Essentially the son had the right to inherit the farm when his mother died as he had relied on the promises from his parents to his detriment that one day the farm would be his.

This case shows the importance of lifetime planning. If you make promises to a person about what will be left to them on your death and they rely on that promise, it may be possible that they acquire a legal interest regardless of what you later decide.

For private client advice, please contact Nicole Gallop Mildon, Head of Private Client