Articles | Guide to proprietary estoppel claims

What do I do if somebody promised me something from their estate?

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Katharine Riley

Katharine Riley

What do I do if somebody promised me something from their estate?

You may be able to bring a claim against and asset or an estate for what is called "proprietary estoppel" in certain circumstances where promises have been made in respect of money or property. The legal basis for these claims is complex however we have successfully pursued such claims for clients. The basic elements of such a claim are:

  • Did someone make promises or representations to you?
  • Did you rely upon those promises?
  • Did you suffer “detriment” as a result?

Case study:

Jack was from a farming family. His father and his uncle jointly owned the farm. When Jack was 16 his father died. He inherited his father’s half of the farm. His uncle encouraged him to take his father’s place, which he did and they had an informal partnership. Jack’s uncle had never married and had no children. Jack married at 21, and on his marriage he was told by his uncle that one day he and his children would have the farm. Jack believed that his uncle had promised him his share of the farm. Nothing was ever written down. He worked for many years for low wages and passed up a lucrative opportunity to go into business with a school friend. Jack’s uncle died. He had become close to his housekeeper and left her his entire estate, with a letter of wishes saying that he hoped that Jack should be able to continue to farm.

In advising Jack we identified that there was a “promise or representation” by Jack’s uncle that he would leave him his half of the farm. He “relied” on that promise and stayed working on the farm. He suffered “detriment” in that he had taken very low wages and given up other opportunities. Jack had a viable claim to his uncle’s half of the farm on the basis that a proprietary estoppel arose.

If you consider that you may have a claim for proprietary estoppel where someone has not provided for you from their estate please contact Katharine Riley at katharine.riley@fsp-law.com or on 0118 951 6245.