Sisters lose shares in farm after father dies without making a will

The granddaughters of a farmer have lost their shares in his farm because of complications that arose when their father died without making a will.

The grandfather had died in 1992, leaving behind a wife and four children. His will stated that the farm was to be left to his wife and two of his sons as tenants in common.

The will added that in order to receive their share of the farm, the two sons must pay a specified sum to the other two siblings within nine months of his death. If this didn’t happen, their share of the farm would pass to the other two siblings.

However, one of the two sons died without making a will of his own in 1990, two years before the death of the grandfather. He was, of course, unable to pay the sum to the siblings. His daughters were not told of the condition and also failed to pay their aunt and uncle.

The granddaughters claimed they didn’t need to make the payment as it was a condition of their father’s rather than their own. 

They also argued they were free from the consequences of not fulfilling the clause as they had not known about it and therefore compliance would have been impossible.

The High Court ruled that as ‘substituted beneficiaries’ they were subject to the same conditions as their father would have been, meaning they needed to make a payment to the aunt and uncle.  

It also refused their argument that not knowing about the clause made it impossible for them to comply.

The grandfather didn’t specify that beneficiaries must be notified in sufficient time in order for the clause to be fulfilled.

Instead, the gift would be passed over to the aunt and uncle if the clause was not met. 

As the granddaughters failed to comply with the condition, their share of the farm passed to their aunt and uncle.

Please contact us for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspects of wills and probate.