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Family feud over farm fortune

30 October 2015

A farmer has won a legal battle against his brothers for sole ownership of a farm, even though his father’s will stated that it should be shared equally between them.

James Davies claims his father told him that ‘one day all of this (the farming business) will be yours’ but upon his father’s death, the will revealed that the farm should be split between Mr Davies and his four younger brothers.

Two of the brothers (who were executors of the will) wanted to carry out their father’s wishes. In the ensuing dispute Mr Davies argued that he had dedicated his life to the £1 million farming business and that after being promised the farm by his parents, gave up his dream of becoming a policeman and instead, went to an agricultural college. He claimed he earned 10 pence an hour and invested thousands of pounds improving the business which he plans to pass down to his son.

One of his brothers said that the will (which was drafted by a solicitor) reflected his father’s wishes and that his brother had earned a good living since being made a partner of the farm. He had also paid very little rent for his housing to his parents for 30 years.

The hearing found that although the father had died in 1999, the will was suppressed for 13 years at the request of his wife who was not aware of any promise made to her eldest son.

The judge ruled in favour of Mr Davies saying he could keep the farm as he had been promised it, and his improvements had increased its value. He was also awarded more than £68,000 in legal costs.

Sometimes family inheritance can become problematic if there is no will or if disputes emerge after the death of a loved one, such as this case demonstrates. Disputes of this sort are often extremely sensitive. Paul specialises in inheritance & trust disputes and approaches matters in a practical and sympathetic way. He often uses alternative dispute resolution as an effective means of achieving an early resolution.

Partner Paul Gordon joined Willans from a City law firm in January 2005. He has specialised in dispute resolution since qualifying and has handled a broad range of commercial matters, including intellectual property, director and shareholder disputes, and engineering and construction cases. Paul has acted for many notable clients including American Express, PizzaExpress, and a number of major financial loan companies such as GE Capital and Morgan Stanley, as well as many businesses with local interests.

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