Court settles dispute between three brothers over inheritance

A dispute between three brothers over the inheritance of the family farm has been settled by the High Court. Whilst the brothers were promised equal shares of the property upon the passing of their parents, the farm was not equally divided in their father’s will. The two less-favoured brothers argued that the main reason for them to dedicate their lives to the farm for modest remuneration was the assurance that they would inherit an equal share of the property.

The High Court has settled a dispute between three brothers over the inheritance of the family farm. The court heard that the brothers had all worked on the farm for most of their lives having been given assurances by their father, Albert, and mother, Brenda, that they would inherit equal shares. Richard Winter and Adrian Winter said their parents had reiterated these assurances several times over many years and told them they were ‘working for their futures’.

When Brenda died, each son inherited 26.66% with Albert retaining the other 20%. However, when Albert died in 2015, he left his 20% to his other son Philip, bringing his share of the business to 46.66%.

Richard and Adrian challenged the will, saying they had worked on the farm for only modest remuneration and had only done so because they thought they would all inherit equally. They said the effect of the will was that they had suffered a detriment unfairly.

The court found in their favour. It accepted that they had stayed with the business for most of their working lives on the basis of the assurances given by their parents. In doing so, they had forfeited the chance to pursue a different career. They had therefore established that they had suffered a detriment by relying on those assurances. The remedy was to give equal shares to each son in line with the assurances they had been given for all their working lives.

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