Couple win farmhouse under aged uncle’s promise

8 October 2012

The England and Wales Court of Appeal has upheld a man’s proprietary estoppel claim to his late uncle’s home in Cornwall.

The 15-acre property, Lower Manaton Farm, belonged to William Samuel Taylor, known as Bill. He had moved there with his wife in 1985, but by 2001 she had died and he was over 80 years old. In August of that year, Bill’s nephew Roger Taylor moved into Lower Manaton with his partner and children. According to Roger, his uncle wanted them to keep him company, and in return promised to leave them the house in his will.

However, in June 2009 they discovered that Bill had made a new will under which the property was mostly left to charity, although Roger and his partner would receive a share of his residuary estate. Even this was subject to forfeiture if they challenged the will.

This led to a serious falling-out, and 12 months later Bill Taylor brought legal proceedings seeking a declaration that Roger and Denise had no beneficial interest in the property. He explicitly denied ever promising it to them.

That case was set down for trial on 29 November 2010, but was pre-empted by Bill Taylor’s death the day before. The dispute then continued, now between Roger’s family and the executors of Bill Taylor, with Roger Taylor and his partner claiming the property under the doctrine of proprietary estoppel.

As always, the facts are complicated by a mass of ancillary documents and testimony. But Roger Taylor and wife won their case first in the High Court, and have now had that ruling upheld in the Court of Appeal. They have, however, been ordered to pay the GBP160,000 inheritance tax charge out of their windfall.





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