In Spencer v Spencer  EWHC 2050 (Ch), Mr Justice Rajah heard yet another dispute concerning a family of farmers in the context of proprietary estoppel. Whilst the case does not cover any groundbreaking new law, it does contain both a helpful summary of the relevant law, an example of how the law on remedy in the post—Guest v Guest  3 WLR 911 world operates, and a reminder on the importance of preparing witness statements compliant with PD57AC CPR.
Relevant Facts John Spencer (deceased) tenanted and owned land comprising about 816 acres in North Witham, Lincolnshire, which he had farmed since the 1960s (Farm). As relevant, his son Michael (the claimant), had farmed the land since he was 15, living in a cottage on the Farm and working for minimal wages, even after he married and had children. Since 1983, there had been a partnership between John, Michael and his sister Penny, but the profits from the partnership (which were significant) had been retained on John’s direction. John died in 2018.
The dispute arose principally because John’s last will, contrary to a previous will made in 2003, left only John’s share in the partnership to Michael, with all the Farm being left to a discretionary trust. It was Michael’s case that he had been repeatedly assured by John prior to his death that Michael would inherit the Farm entirely.
It was a feature of this case that Michael was the only living person able to attest personally to the relevant assurances, although there was evidence from other witnesses dealing with what John had told them about the assurances. Somewhat unusually, Michael’s solicitor in the litigation was a witness of fact in support of the claim.
To read the full article by Barnaby Hope, please click on this link