Cases by Area of Law

Gee v Gee [2018] EWHC 1393 Ch

Barrister: Leslie Blohm QC
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts & Tax 
Summary: Leslie has recently been instructed in the latest farming case to consider a claim by a farmer’s child to the family farm. The Claimant, now sixty years old, sought to succeed to the farm he was promised over decades. His father had recently given his interest in the family farm and the family farming company to his other son, a property developer. The case was complicated by the total denial by both father and other son of any promises being made to the Claimant; the nature of the promises that were claimed (relating to the ‘lion’s share’ of the farm), and the fact that the mother had already given her share of the farm and company to the Claimant son to try to remedy what she saw as unjust behaviour. Mr Justice Birss heard evidence over five days and awarded the Claimant son his expectation interest, but with the detailed order to await a subsequent hearing.

Download judgment: Gee v Gee [2018] EWHC 1393 Ch

Sinel v Hennessy [2018] JCA 095, Jersey Court of Appeal

Barrister: Nicholas Pointon
Area of Law: Wills & Trusts
Summary: Nick Pointon, together with Advocate James Dickinson of Dickinson Gleeson, acted for the successful party, Advocate Philip Sinel, in landmark proceedings before the Jersey Court of Appeal (Bompas JA, McNeill JA and Wynn-Williams JA). The proceedings concern the standing of lawyers to sue for breach of confidence relating to documents and information generated in the privileged context of a lawyer / client relationship.

View the judgmentSinel v Hennessy [2018]

Thompson v Raggett [2018] EWHC 688 (Ch)

[2018] EWHC 688 (Ch)

Barrister: Alex Troup
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Tax
Head of our Wills and Trusts team, Alex Troup, instructed by Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu of Hugh James successfully represented Mrs Thompson in the recent High Court case of Thompson v Raggett [2018] EWHC 688 (Ch).

Mrs Thompson brought a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 against the estate of her late partner and cohabitee, Mr Hodge, whose will left his whole estate, valued at over £1,5 million, to his tenants. The estate mainly consisted of a caravan park and farm in West Wales.

The High Court granted Mrs Thompson an outright transfer of a cottage, valued at £225,000, which Mr Hodge had purchased specifically for him and Mrs Thompson to live in during their retirement. Mrs Thompson was also granted a lump sum of £160,000 for her future maintenance and care, plus a further £28,845 to renovate the property and facilitate her moving in.

In his letter of wishes accompanying his last will, Mr Hodge claimed that Mrs Thompson had substantial sums and finances to provide for herself, but the court accepted that Mrs Thompson was in fact financially dependent upon him. Given their 42 years of cohabitation and the unpaid work she carried out on the caravan park and farm, coupled with her financial dependency, she was awarded approximately 33% of the net estate.

The Court’s decision to grant Mrs Thompson an outright interest in the cottage is significant given that in Ilott v The Blue Cross [2017] 2 WLR 979 the Supreme Court indicated that if housing is provided by way of maintenance it is likely more often to be provided by way of life interest.

The key drivers behind the Judge’s decision to grant an absolute interest in the cottage were (a) the long period of cohabitation, (b) the cottage had been bought specifically to provide Mrs Thompson with a home, (c) the beneficiaries under the will had adopted Mr Hodge’s aversion to Mrs Thompson’s son (who would be caring for her) receiving anything, and (d) an outright interest would allow Mrs Thompson to make the necessary alterations to the cottage without having to seek permission.

Cooksley v Cole

Barrister: John Dickinson
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: 8 November 2002 Neuberger J. A High Court decision of Neuberger J on the principles applicable to the construction of a Will. This case was cited with approval by the Court of in the case of Thomas v Kent [2006] EWCA Civ 1485.

Re DMM, sub nom EJ (as attorney for DMM) v SD [2017] EWCOP 32

[2017] EWCOP 32

Barrister: Alex Troup
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts & Tax
Summary: Determination of the appropriate legal test for capacity to marry under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Shirley Brindley deceased, sub nom Brindley v Brindley [2018] EWHC 157 (Ch)

[2018] EWHC 157 (Ch)

Barrister: Alex Troup
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts & Tax
Summary: Whether a lifetime gift of property by mother to one of her sons should be set aside on the ground of undue influence.


Habberfield v Habberfield

Barrister: Leslie Blohm QC
Area of Law: Agriculture & Rural AffairsProperty and Real Estate and Wills, Trusts & Tax 
Summary: Leslie was instructed by Stephens Scown LLP, who represented Lucy Habberfield in her claim in the Chancery Division in Bristol against her mother for a share of her mother and father’s farm, relying on many promises said to have been made to her whilst she worked on the farm for low wages and for long hours.  After a five day trial, Mr. Justice Birss has awarded Ms. Habberfield a lump sum of £1,170,000 in respect of her claim.

View Court of Appeal judgment here: Habberfield v Habberfield [2018] EWHC 317 (Ch)

Ann Legg and Lynn Burton v Aaron Burton, Victoria Brooks and Michael Burton [2017] EWHC 2088 (Ch)

Barrister: John Dickinson
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: John Dickinson was successful in acting for the Claimants in the two day trial heard on 2nd and 3rd August, with judgment being handed down by His Honour Judge Matthews on 11th August 2017 in the Chancery Division of the Bristol District Registry. The Claimants established a constructive trust under the doctrine of mutual wills under which the estate of their Deceased mother was held for the Claimants, rather than being held under her last Will for various of her grandchildren and others.

The judgment is available here.

Ames v Jones & Ors

[2016] EW Misc B67 (CC), Lawtel AC0151933 27/9/16

Barrister: Oliver Wooding 
Area of Law: Wills, Trusts and Probate
Summary: Oliver appeared at trial for an adult daughter in a claim under Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependants) Act 1975 for financial provision out of her father’s Estate, which was left entirely to his second wife.  The case raised interesting questions about the nature of the court’s discretion under s. 9 to treat jointly owned property as part of the net Estate and was ultimately dismissed where the judge concluded that the claimant’s present unemployment was “a lifestyle choice”.  The case caused considerable press attention and was featured in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and This Morning.

Ely v Robson (2016)

[2016] EWCA Civ 774

Barrister: Jody Atkinson
Area of Law:  Wills, Trusts and Tax
Summary: Jody appeared for the successful party before the Court of Appeal in the case of Ely v Robson [2016] EWCA Civ 774. This is an important decision in the field of proprietary estoppel and constructive trusts. Jody is a member of both our commercial & chancery and family practice groups, and has a particular expertise in cross over areas such as cohabitant disputes.

Jody appeared for Mr Ely. In summary, he was in a 20-year relationship with Ms Robson, and they had two children together. When they split up, Ms Robson attempted to claim a half interest in Mr Ely’s house. Proceedings were issued in 2007, and the matter was set for a trial. However, Mr Ely and Ms Robson reached an oral agreement on a park bench that Ms Robson would be permitted to live in the house until her aunt (who also lived there) died. They also agreed Mr Ely would leave 20% of the value of the house to Ms Robson after he died. However, in a misguided attempt to save money, neither parties’ solicitor converted the oral agreement into a signed written agreement or consent order. The Court was told that the matter was settled. The parties carried on living unhappily in the house together.

Six years later the aunt died and Mr Ely asked Ms Robson to leave. She refused to do so, stating there had never been an agreement. The matter returned to the Swindon County Court, where the Judge found that there had been a settlement agreement as Mr Ely had alleged. Ms Robson appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the parties’ oral settlement agreement failed to comply with the requirements of section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989, which required contracts for the disposition of interests in land to be in writing signed by both parties, and that Mr Ely could not rely on the law of proprietary estoppel due to the decision in Cobbe v Yeoman’s Row Management Ltd [2008] UKHL 55, [2008] 1 WLR 1752.

The Court of Appeal (Sir Brian Levenson, President of the Queens Bench Division, and Kitchin LJ) accepted Jody’s submissions that the terms of the agreement were sufficiently clear, the parties had intended it to be immediately binding, and, the parties having acted on the settlement agreement for six years, it was not possible for Ms Robson to now resile from it. This was an area where the relief granted could be described as either a constructive trust, or as a result of proprietary estoppel. The two doctrines were concurrent at this point. Ms Robson was to vacate the property and pay the full costs of the first hearing and also of the appeal.

View decision: