A son who alleges that his deceased father promised him a portion of his farming estate it suing his family for £3 million.
Stating that his father assured him he would receive the farm, Sam James contends that prior to death, his father was pressured by his mother to amend his will. Sam also claims that his father lacked the capacity to create another will, given the advanced stage of his dementia. As a result, he claimed that this invalidated the will made in 2010.
As well as his time working on both the estate and business for over three decades, Sam stated that he’d also shared conversations with his father which indicated – as far as he was concerned – to receive the farming estate.
However, Sam’s mother, Sandra James, contests this inheritance claim. Sandra states that her husband had gifted Karen James, his daughter, a significant portion of the land in 2007. She also claims that £800,000, as well as the remaining share of the farm, was put aside into a joint account by the deceased in 2009.
Commenting on the vitality of consolidating final wishes in order to avoid this kind of dispute was Hannah Worricker. The solicitor in the Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team from Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth highlighted the unfortunate frequency of this type of case, and drew attention to the need to increase awareness around keeping wills up to date.
“Sam James had devoted his whole life to Pennymore farm, having left school early to work on the estate and business. Representing Sam, Penelope Reed QC described him as an ‘absolute grafter’ who ‘worked his socks off’. It, therefore, came as a complete shock when Sam learnt that his father had left his entire estate to his mother and sisters and left nothing to him.
“Sadly this is a common occurrence in relation to rural estates where wills are either old and out of date, not reviewed when major life change occur such as divorce, or sometimes wills aren’t even made at all.
“In this case, Sam is claiming that his father lacked the necessary mental capacity to sign his will in 2010 and that his mother and sisters exerted influence over him so that they may benefit under the will. If Sam is successful in challenging the validity of the 2010 Will and it is set aside, then he will either benefit under an earlier Will, properly executed by Allen James, or if none exists, under the rules of intestacy.
“This case highlights the importance of ensuring that a valid will is prepared and signed properly, with no outside influences and at a time when the person making the will fully understands and approves the contents of their will and the consequences of the gifts therein. It is also good practice to have a discussion with family and friends about your intentions for your assets so that they are not shocked when the estate is administered.”