A person making a Will is generally free to gift their assets to whoever they want. If they do not make a Will, then their assets will be distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules.
However, if the Will or the Intestacy Rules mean that a promise that a person made to someone before they died will be broken, the person who they made that promise to might be able to ask the Court to intervene, either by giving effect to the promise, or by awarding them a sum of money to compensate them for the broken promise. This is a legal concept known as ‘Proprietary Estoppel’.
A common example which has arisen in several recent cases is where someone spends years working on a farm – usually for little or no pay – relying on a promise that they will inherit the farm when the owner dies, only to eventually find the farm was gifted to someone else in the Will, or the Intestacy Rules mean it will go to someone else. In cases like this, sometimes referred to as ‘Cowshed Cinderella’ cases, there may be a good claim for proprietary estoppel.
To bring a successful proprietary estoppel claim evidence of the following is needed:
If each of these can be shown, it is possible to ask the Court to compensate the person to whom the promise was made. This is usually done by awarding the person the asset they were promised, or a sum of money out of the estate.
The evidence needed to prove each of these will be dependent on the facts of each case. Whilst a promise made in a written contract would be useful evidence, often the promise was made verbally, making it harder (but not impossible) to prove. It is important to review the entire history of the case, when and how the promises were made, and what loss has been suffered as a result, in order to present a compelling argument that the promise should be enforced.
Whilst there are no strict time limits for this type of claim, a delay can cause issues with the reliability of evidence and the recoverability of assets or money. A significant delay can even be raised as a defence to a claim. As such, as with any probate claim, we always advise our clients to take action and seek legal advice as soon as possible to give their claim the best chance of success.
No two cases are the same: one case might be resolved within a few letters and in just a couple of months, whilst another might end up at trial which could take two years, if not longer. Whatever the case, we aim to cut through the key issues and find a resolution as quickly as possible, and will draw on our experience of negotiation to make this happen.
If you need any advice on broken promises, please contact a member of our dispute resolution team in confidence here or on 02920 829 100 for a free initial call to see how they can help.
I have worked with Darwin Gray for a number of years and the level of service, professionalism and timely response is second to none. I would highly recommend Darwin Gray to any business.”
Darwin Gray have provided us with a first-class service for many years now. They really take the time to understand our business and develop relationships which results in advice and support that is contextualised and effective.”
We have worked with Darwin Gray for several years and have always found their services and advice to be first class.”
An extremely professional and sincere company who make time for your queries and understand the need to break down certain facts and information to ensure everything is understood perfectly. I would highly recommend the company to anyone looking for any type of legal advice”
PSS has worked with Darwin Gray for many years. We have always received an excellent service. Prompt and professional advice and support.”
We have used several departments within DG recently and we have been very pleased with an effective, efficient and down to earth service. Very happy thus far and I expect that we will continue to use DG.”
Darwin Gray offer us truly superb services. Very professional, quick and services available bilingually which is very important to us, highly recommend.”
My “go to” in urgent and time sensitive cases for direction, support and advice. The team are quick to respond to calls or emails for advice and support on all matters. Always explain complex matters in a way a lay person can easily understand.”
Darwin Gray have acted for myself and my company over a number of years and at all times we have been treated with a professional manner yet maintain a common-sense approach at all levels. We couldn’t recommend them more highly.”
We have been clients of Darwin Gray for many years; they’ve always dealt with all of our legal matters with such professionalism. They work around us, even during awkward hours, and we feel confident we can always rely on them.”
Darwin Gray has been acting for Siltbuster for more than ten years. We would have no hesitation in recommending Darwin Gray to other organisations small or large.”
From the very first conversation, I had no doubt that Darwin Gray should be the firm to receive our instructions on this matter. I would have no hesitation in recommending Darwin Gray.”
We regularly instruct Darwin Gray. Their service in dealing with our transactional matters and disputes is always professional, prompt and efficient.”
Darwin Gray guided me through a long and extended process that would have been much more difficult had it not been for their patience and constant support.”
Excellent and efficient service. Great result achieved, highly professional and transparent on pricing. Would recommend.”
Superb legal service provided. Exceeded expectations. They went above and beyond in order to provide the best service possible.”
Very professional and understanding. They were a calming influence in a very troubling situation and they brought it to a very successful conclusion”
We have used Darwin Gray and have been seriously impressed. The personal approach is what Darwin Gray are excelling on and is the reason why we will continue to work with them in the future.”