Beware a family dispute

A recent case highlights the potentially ruinous damage that can result from a family dispute.

The case involved a farming family. One daughter (described as her father's 'blue eyed girl') had set up and successfully run a dairy farm at her family's farming business. It was accepted that it was her efforts which led to the success of this aspect of the business. Over the years, her father told her on numerous occasions that the dairy farm would be hers on his death - although he did want his other children and his wife to be provided for.

An argument over the daughter's right to the farm after her father's death led to her mother having to sell the family home to pay the legal fees in what the Judge described as a 'ruinously expensive' legal battle.

The mother disputed the daughter's right to the farm and refused to transfer it to her. The matter went to the Court of Appeal, who held in the daughter's favour. On the basis that the daughter had relied on her father's statements and had acted to her detriment, she was entitled to a £1.2m pay-out. The mother had to sell the family home to meet this cost and the legal fees - which is a sad irony, as it is clear that her husband had wanted to provide for her after his death. Had the mother not resisted her daughter's claim so vigorously, she would no doubt still be living in the family home as her husband had wished.

The case is a sad illustration of the result of failing to include specific wishes in a will. This is even more important where a business is involved.

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