Under the law in England and Wales, your father (as the testator) is free to change his will as many times as he likes, as long as he has the requisite mental capacity.
However, if you were promised the family farm and found, following the death of your father, that his will has not reflected this promise, then you may have a claim against the estate to show that the farm belongs to you.
Grounds to challenge a will
Amongst other grounds to challenge a will, you may have a basis to claim against the estate in these circumstances, for what is known as the law of proprietary estoppel.
What is proprietary estoppel?
In order to prove a case for proprietary estoppel, you will have to show the following three key elements:
- That there was a clear promise from your father, by words or conduct, that you would inherit the family farm – for example, if your father regularly said things to you like “this farm will all be yours one day, son” or “ we are investing in the herd/machinery/soil improvement for your future on the farm.”
- That you relied upon this promise to your detriment – for example, if you worked on the farm for very low pay over a long period on the basis that it would be yours in the future.
- That it would be unjust to allow your father to go back on the promise – for example, that it is inequitable for the will to leave the farm to your brother/girlfriend/anyone else.
If you think you have relied on a promise that was not fulfilled, then you may have a claim against the estate following death. If you would like advice on challenging an estate because you have worked on the family farm in the belief that it would one day be yours, then we will be happy to help. Please contact Beth King-Smith, Head of Disputed Wills, Trusts & Estates on 01905 744842 or at [email protected]