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Farm Sale Not to be Held Up by Will Dispute
The children of a farmer who suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2013 had expected to inherit his estate. After his death, however, they discovered that he had made a new will in 2011, leaving his entire estate to a woman he had become close to after knowing her for many years.
The change in the farmer's will was accompanied by a letter in which he stated that he wished to disinherit his children because he had lost touch with them after his wife died.
The man's children decided to launch a challenge to his will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which allows those who were dependent on a deceased person but who have not been adequately provided for in their will to seek financial provision from the estate.
The woman beneficiary wishes to sell the man's half share in the property he farmed with other relatives, who also wish to sell it. To prevent the sale, the deceased man's children applied for a 'caution' to be put on the property: this is a notice lodged at the Land Registry that there is a dispute over that particular piece of land and it has the effect of preventing it from being sold.
The woman applied to the High Court to have the caution lifted and the Court agreed to her request. Key to the decision was the fact that no-one involved wanted to run the farm and, if left unmanaged, its value would fall. If the estate suffered because of the caution and the children's claims failed, they would be unable to compensate the estate.
Accordingly, the judge ordered that the caution be removed and recommended that the children and the beneficiary resolve their dispute by mediation if at all possible.