Proprietary estoppel claims continue to be reported and the running theme is that they mainly relate to farming families. In the recently reported Gee v Gee & Anor  EWHC 1393 (Ch) the son claimed his father had promised he would inherit the lion's share of the farm.
The son (claimant), now 60 years old, claimed he was entitled to the lion's share of the farm and business on the basis of promises he had been made by his father over decades. He claimed from the age of 30 his father had repeatedly assured him that he would inherit the majority of the farm and he had relied on those representations to his detriment, by devoting his working life to the farm, working long hours for low wages.
His father had recently given the family company and his interest in the farm to another son who has a property developer. An interesting evidential point arose in this case because father and the property developer son denied any promises ever being made to the claimant and the fact that the mother had already given her share of the farm and company to the claimant son to try and remedy what she saw as unjust behaviour. What the mother had transferred to the claimant son was actually only 7/18ths of the land (approx. 38.8%) and 1 company share.
The company and farm are worth around £8 million.
The claimant son's claim was successful. The transfers from mother to claimant son were ordered to be reversed and claimant son should receive 52% of the shares and 46% of the land.
This case serves as yet another reminder of the importance of having open family discussions about succession and the need for evidential and legal documentation.