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Farming Proprietary Estoppel claim goes to Court of Appeal

View profile for Caroline Dowding
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Following on from my article last year, the case of Moore v Moore has gone to the Court of Appeal, with the Judge finding in favour of Roger Moore’s wife.

At the previous hearing, the court ruled that Stephen (Roger Moore’s son) was entitled to the entire farm (of which he already owned 50%), including the farmhouse, as he was able to rely on his father’s promise that the farm would eventually be his. Stephen had to allow his parents to remain living on the farm, and pay them a weekly income of £200.

This case is unusual as Stephen’s parents are both still alive, and the farm was awarded to him with immediate effect, rather than on the death of his parents.

Roger’s wife and Stephen’s mother, Pamela Moore, applied to the Court of Appeal on the grounds the decision is unfair on her daughter. She also argues that there was never any legally binding promise to leave the farm to Stephen, and that he had not suffered any detriment by not inheriting his father’s 50% share, as he had already acquired 50% share from his uncle at significantly less than market value.

The Court of Appeal heard the case on 28th November, and whilst it was agreed that the farm should go to Stephen, the unfairness on the decision on Roger (who is now in a care home) and Pamela was recognised.

It was held that Stephen would only inherit the farm after both his parents have died, and with reasonable provisions being made for Pamela if Roger were to predecease her. The decision appears to come from the fact that the previous decision did not take into account Pamela’s need for capital and income after Roger’s death.

It was held that in the circumstances of ever decreasing relations between mother and son that a lump sum payment should be made to Pamela to achieve a ‘clean-break’ so that she could afford to purchase a property away from the farm and have funds independent of the farm. The case has been referred back to the High Court where there will be a further hearing to determine what lump sum Stephen must pay to his father. This figure has been placed at between £1M and £2M plus any associated costs.

It is widely reported that the legal fees on both sides has amounted to £2.5M – 25% of the value of the entire farm. In all likelihood, the farm will have to be sold to meet the cost of the legal fees moving forward. It clearly highlights the importance of making sure your wishes are adequately reflected to ensure as far as possible that such disputes do not arise in the future.

If you need any assistance with any of your agricultural needs, please contact me on 01206 217394 or caroline.dowding@birkettlong.co.uk.

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