Who you decide to benefit in your will is up to you – but your freedom of choice may be restricted by any binding promises that you have made. In one case, a man who failed to honour his word and give his farm to his son has had his will effectively re-written by a judge following his death.
By his will, the man left the farm on trust for his son until he reached the age of 60, when he would be required to sell it and split the proceeds with his four siblings. The son launched proceedings on the basis that the will did not reflect promises made to him by his father during his lifetime.
No such promises had been recorded in writing or witnessed by others, but the Court accepted that the man had repeatedly assured his son that the farm would one day be his. The first promise had been made when the son was a 16-year-old after he finished his GCSE exams.
In reliance on his father’s word, he had sacrificed a prospective career in the police force, instead attending agricultural college and working on the farm for long hours at a low rate of pay. He had ploughed profits back into the business and carried out improvements worth £177,000 over the years. In those circumstances, the Court found that the terms of the will were ‘unconscionable’ and ruled that the son was beneficially entitled to the farm.