Posted on 7th November 2017
The story of Sam James, a man suing his mother and sisters after he was disinherited, hit the headlines recently. Private client partner Nicola Waldman from London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen picks up the story and offers advice to anyone facing a similar situation.
“Briefly, 60-year-old Sam had worked on the family farm his whole life on the promise that he would inherit it. But, following his father’s death, Sam got nothing and believes his mother persuaded his father, while he was suffering from dementia, to amend his will to exclude Sam,” Nicola says.
“The ruling from the courts has yet to be given, but the case throws up some interesting legal points for anyone who believes they’ve also been unfairly cut out of a will.
“Sam’s case likely focuses on grounds of capacity – or rather his father’s lack of capacity when signing the will – plus undue influence from his mother.
“Sam may also be able to bring a claim for proprietary estoppel, mainly applicable to land and rights over property, a law consisting of three main elements: A promise or other encouragement made by X to Y; Y relied on that expectation; detriment to Y for relying on that promise.
If Sam can show that his father had promised him the farm if he worked there for life, possibly for free, he could clearly argue that he relied on that promise to his detriment. The court might then consider it appropriate to award him the farm – or something of similar value from the estate.
Although Sam’s story is fairly dramatic, more people than you might expect seek to contest a will when they feel they’ve been treated unfairly.
This article first appeared in Final Choices, November 2017.
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