Wills dispute over farm sees brothers awarded a share of the estate

News Article

An inheritance dispute heard at the High Court has resulted in the awarding of a share of the estate to two brothers.

Anthony Sowray died intestate, after which his estranged daughter, Claire, was awarded the estate.

However, the estate came into dispute when Matthew and James Willis stated that Mr Sowray had promised that they would inherit some of the estate, with Matthew working on the farm for more than 20 years, and James being promised the land that his home was built on.

The case saw the brothers awarded 50 acres of Gilmoor Farm, as well as the associated outbuildings, estimated to be worth £350,000. The brothers were promised that they would inherit land from Mr Sowray, but none of this was made in writing.

During the case, it transpired that Sowray had begun to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, Claire, and then informed Matthew that he was intending to leave the farmhouse to her.

After Mr Sowray’s death, Claire told the two brothers that her father had intended to leave the entire farm to her, following business plans they had made before his death.

This was successfully challenged by Matthew and James, who both depended on the farm for their livelihoods. During the court hearing, witnesses gave evidence about the promises made to the brothers, as well as their work on the farm.

Tim Steele, a Partner with Palmers who specialises in Wills and estate administration, said: “This case emphasises the importance of estate planning and Wills, particularly to avoid complicated inheritance disputes such as this.

“Without a Will your assets are distributed on your death in accordance with statutory intestacy provisions. Dying without a properly drafted and up to date Will could result in those closest to you finding their standard of living dramatically curtailed. It could also lead to a costly legal challenge to the distribution of your estate, eating up a substantial part of the money available for distribution.”

Tim added: “We are conscious that the current public health crisis is, understandably, leading many people to either make or revise their Wills.

“While several of our team are working from home and are, of course, maintaining social distancing, we are continuing to take, and progress, Will instructions at this time.”

For help and advice on matters relating to Wills and estate planning, contact our expert team.


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