A LONG-running legal dispute over the inheritance of a family farm in the Wye Valley has been settled at the supreme court.

The supreme court judgment has been handed down in a long-running and significant inheritance dispute case between farmer Andrew Guest and his parents.

The high court trial was brought by Andrew Guest who was made assurances by his parents that he would inherit the family farm, which he had worked on, for less than minimum wage, since the age of 16.

The Guest family has farmed at Tump Farm, at Whitebrook near Chepstow, since 1938.

When the relationship between Mr Guest and his parents broke down in 2015, he was told to find another job, move his family out of the farm’s cottage, the farming business partnership was dissolved and Mr Guest was disinherited completely.

Now aged 56, he lives with his wife Tracey in Wanborough near Swindon, and works as a herd manager.

He has two younger siblings, Ross, 45, and Janice, 54.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mr Guest was entitled to his inheritance because his parents had repudiated on their promise that one day Andrew would inherit the farm.

The action was taken under a piece of land law called proprietary estoppel, this is where someone gets legal rights to a property even if nothing is put in writing, so long as they can prove they have been “given a clear assurance” during their lives that they would inherit it.

Following a high court trial and an appeal to the Court of Appeal, the supreme court determined that the correct approach to remedying the situation would be based on Mr. Guest’s expectation of inheritance as opposed to the detriment-based approach put forward by his parents. 

The Supreme Court firmly rejected the theory that the remedy for proprietary estoppel cases is to compensate for detriment suffered.

In the judgment handed down on October 19, Andrew’s parents - David, 81, and Josephine, 80 - lost their appeal on this ground and this decision sets a significant precedent in this area of law on how to frame relief.

The Supreme Court allowed the parents’ appeal on the ground of accelerated receipt of Mr Guest's inheritance during his parents’ lifetimes.

The Supreme Court held that the parents now have two choices to fulfil Mr. Guest’s expectation - either:

  • Pay a reduced sum to Mr Guest now
  • Hold his share of the farm on trust for him for their lifetimes

Agriculture specialists Polly Ridgway, Daniel Gill and Esther Woolford, of national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, represented Andrew Guest at the High Court trial, the Court of Appeal hearing and the Supreme Court appeal.

Ms Ridgway said: “Andrew’s parents put in place a series of measures which were designed to leave Andrew, in his 50s, with no home, no job, no savings, and no pension, despite a lifetime of hard work. 

“Thankfully, the Supreme Court was prepared to use its powers to prevent this clear injustice and, as a result, Andrew will receive his inheritance promised to him either now (as an accelerated sum) or on his parents’ deaths. We are delighted to have helped Andrew achieve this result.

“Aside from being a significant decision in this area of law, the case also highlights the need for those involved in or contemplating bringing inheritance disputes to get expert legal advice as soon as possible so as to avoid the situation Andrew’s parents now find themselves in.”

Representing Mr Guest's parents was law firm Thrings, who were contacted for comment.