The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of Judge Jeremy Griggs in the case of Bradbury -v- Taylor to allow Roger Taylor to keep his late uncle’s £800,000 farmhouse, despite this going against the wishes of the deceased.

After an incident at the property William Taylor invited his nephew, Roger Taylor together with his partner and their two children to move from Sheffield and into his house. Roger Taylor and his family lived in the east wing of the property, while William Taylor stayed in the west wing. When the couple discovered that William Taylor’s latest will left most of the property to charity a bitter legal battle pursued. Roger Taylor claimed that William Taylor had promised to leave them the house. William Taylor “vehemently denied” this. Furthermore, shortly before William Taylor’s death he left a witness statement stating that “Roger would be the last person that I would leave the house to. There was never any intention of leaving my house to him, or anyone else.

After William Taylor’s death the dispute continued between his executors and Roger Taylor. Last year His Honour Judge Jeremy Griggs, sitting as a deputy Circuit Judge in the Plymouth County Court, accepted that a deal had been struck between the uncle and nephew and that Roger Taylor and wife had acted in reliance on that to their detriment in moving in with William Tayor. On that basis he held that a proprietary estoppel had arisen, and that William Taylor thereafter held the property on trust for Roger Taylor and his wife. The effect of that was to render William Taylor’s attempt to leave the property elsewhere ineffective. Accordingly the property was left to Roger Taylor and his wife subject to inheritance tax.

This decision was challenged in the Court of Appeal, the grounds of appeal being, in summary, that His Honour Judge Griggs was not justified in finding that a proprietary estoppel had arisen on the basis of the facts of the case. However the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, holding that the Judge’s decision took into account all the relevant factual considerations and that he had been entitled to come to the conclusion that he came to on the basis of those facts.

For more information about contested wills, please speak to Richard Monkcom, Partner and head of Druces LLP’s Private Client team.

This note does not constitute legal advice but is intended as general guidance only. It is based on the law in force in October 2012

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