Probate Disputes: High Court decides against Farmer's promise

In a recent court decision, a son who spent 35 years working on his father’s farm has lost his claim to challenge his late father’s will.

The case of James v James (2018) concerned the estate of a farmer, Charles Allen James, (known as Allen James). Allen James died in August 2012 leaving an estate worth approximately £3 million which included substantial farming land in Dorset.

Allen made a will in 2010 which left his estate to his wife, Sandra James and to his two daughters, Karen James and Serena Underwood. Allen made no provision for his son Sam James (“Sam”) in his will.

Sam issued court proceedings against his mother and his sisters on the basis that the 2010 will was invalid. Sam said that he had spent his life working on the farm due to the promises made by Allen that he would inherit the farm after his death.

After examining the evidence at trial, His Honour Judge Paul Matthews decided that there was nothing which amounted to a promise or assurance made by Allen to Sam that he would inherit the farm. Further, the court took into consideration the fact that Sam received significant sums of money from Allen along with gifts of land during Allen’s lifetime. 

The court heard evidence from the solicitor who prepared the 2010 will and placed emphasis on Allen’s testamentary intention to readdress the balance between Sam on the one hand and Allen’s wife and daughters on the other.

Inheritance Disputes and Will Disputes are highly complex and specialist advice should be sought at an early stage to ensure that important deadlines are not missed and that your interests are protected.

If you need advice concerning an inheritance dispute, a probate dispute or if you are in a position where you need to defend a will dispute/inheritance dispute, please do not hesitate to contact our contentious probate team on 01902 424927. Alternatively, you can e-mail us at providing a brief summary of the issues you wish to discuss with us, along with your contact details.