Farmer's son defeats sister's appeal against proprietary estoppel award

21 June 2012

The son of Yorkshire farmer Frank Suggitt is entitled to inherit most of the family estate even though Suggitt left it to his daughter, the England & Wales Court of Appeal has confirmed.

Suggitt died in 2009. His estate consisted of 400 acres of farmland, some houses, and cash of GBP150,000. His will nominated his daughter Caroline as sole beneficiary. It also stated that Caroline should transfer the farm to his son John if ‘in the absolute opinion of Caroline’ he showed himself capable of running it - though the will expressly did not impose a trust to this effect.

John challenged the will on proprietary estoppel grounds, claiming that Frank Suggitt had repeatedly promised to leave him the land. Last year the High Court ruled in John's favour and granted him a three-quarters share of the GBP4 million estate, including the farmhouse he occupied along with his family.

Caroline then took the case to appeal. The evidence offered for John's lack of farming ability was that many years earlier he had left his agricultural college without graduating, and that he had already spent a modest inheritance from another relative. However, in recent years he had established and ran his own business, with financial support from his father.

But according to newspaper reports, the Appeal Court under Lady Arden has now rejected Caroline's appeal. They ruled that John had been given unconditional assurances that he would receive the land and house when his father died. Caroline will retain only the house and money left to her by her father's will.

 

Sources

Telegraph

Mail

BAILII (2011 High Court judgement)

 

 


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