Don't Make Promises to Your Children You Won't Keep!

Parents who make promises to their children can be held to their word by the law. In one case, an elderly couple whose daughter worked hard on their farm for years, on the basis of their assurances that she would reap the benefits in due course, were ordered to pay her £500,000.

The daughter had spent a large part of 25 years tending her parents’ dairy herd. She claimed that they had repeatedly promised her that the farm would be left to her in their wills. In reliance on those assurances, she said that she had stayed at home, working for low wages, whilst her two sisters made lives for themselves away from the farm.

Her parents had initially planned to leave the farm to her alone but subsequently had a change of heart and made wills in which they bequeathed the farm in trust to her and her sisters equally. The couple insisted that their daughter had earned a fair income, as well as receiving free board and lodging and other benefits.

However a judge decided that the daughter had acted to her detriment in reliance on her parents’ promises and was thus entitled to a stake in the farm. Following a further hearing, her interest in the farm was quantified at £1.3 million. In upholding the parents’ challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that the award was excessive and reduced it to £500,000.