Farmer’s Son Stripped Of His Inheritance Because He Hates Cows

A farmer’s son is in the middle of a bitter court row with his own parents for his right to inherit the family farm because he ‘doesn’t like cows’.

Clive Shaw, 55, from New York, Lincolnshire, who found out he had been written out of his parents’ Wills has brought a proprietary estoppel claim against them.

Based on a promise from his parents that he would inherit the £1m family farm, Mr Shaw claimed that he tirelessly worked on the farm from a young child and never pursued other career prospects.

The parents cut him out of the Will altogether and instead bequeathed the estate to his sister because they both claimed that their son ‘hated the cows’ on the farm and felt that he was incapable of running the business.

Mr Shaw’s sister, Cheryl Hughes, told the High Court in London that he repeatedly called the cows ‘stinking, horrible, rotten creatures’.

However, Mr Shaw believes the dispute has nothing to do with this but has come about because his mother does not like his girlfriend and thinks she is a ‘gold digger’.

According to national law firm, Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, the case highlights the importance of ‘early action’ where families wish to protect their family assets to avoid costly farming disputes arising in the first place.

Nazia Nawaz, farming will disputes specialist, said: “We’re seeing increasing numbers of similar claims in farming disputes where the parties fail to formalise agreements in writing at the time the promise is made.

“While such cases were historically brought on the death of the person that made the promise, this case is one of many where the claim has been brought in the lifetime of both parties to enforce the promise as soon as there is an indication that the promise has not been honoured in a Will.”

She added: “This case also highlights the importance and need for early action where families wish to protect their family wealth. It goes to show why it is worth hiring a solicitor when it comes to Wills – they are able not only to advise and represent parties in such disputes but also on strategies to minimise the risk of disputes arising in the first place.”

The High Court’s Judge will conclude the case on a later date.

There have been recent cases in the farming sector where Wills have not been written and ‘verbal promises’ have been relied upon instead to family members – which not only causes costly inheritance battles but can tear families apart. Private sector legal professionals have been warning farming families that ‘promises are not enough’ when it comes to farm inheritance and stressed the importance of making a Will to avoid expensive inheritance disputes.

As a Will writer, what is your opinion of this case? What best practices or measures could be put in place when dealing with farming family clients?

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  • test

    As a professional estate planner, I have learned over the years to apply former business skills from management consultantcy days. Before embarking on a new project we would root cause most things. The same is true when discussing estate planning. When I get to the route of intentions (intentionality) I often find clients are tapping into various conflicted beliefs and values. These can (and often do) conflict with childrens values as they are burried and not discussed and resolved. My favorite work is getting people together and getting things in the open so they can decide whether to resolve or just agree to dissagree. My hope is that it will head off contentious situations in the future, gold diggers not withstanding!

  • test

    The conclusion to this article is, in my view, misleading and rather misses the point. The string of recent decisions in proprietary estoppel cases demonstrates that, in the right circumstances, ‘promises are enough’, if they have been relied upon by the promisee and the promisee has acted to their detriment based on that reliance. Not only that, but verbal promises can override testamentary wishes written into a later will.

    The lesson to be learned for will writers is that when advising on a new will and taking instructions for farming families, it is of critical importance to understand the bigger picture, including the terms of earlier wills and the possibility that some of their offspring may have taken the impression that they will inherit the farm or business. As well as a good will, it is also important for farmers to get good advice in relation to business / partnership structures and the way in which title to the farmland is held.

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