Home / Insights / Blog / Promises made by the deceased relating to a specific property

Promises made by the deceased relating to a specific property

Promises made by the deceased relating to a specific property

We look at a situation where an Inheritance Act claimant might make a claim in respect of a property, but there are now more potential claimants who do not have the right to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act, but allege that a promise made by the deceased during his or her lifetime in respect of a property results in a proprietary estoppel claim. Such claims are notoriously complex but seem to be growing in number.

In November 2014 this area was considered again by the courts in the case of Lothian v Dixon and Webb. The deceased made a will leaving her estate to Mrs Lothian and her sister. The deceased had asked Mrs Lothian to move in with her at her hotel with the intention of looking after her. In return the deceased said she would leave the Hotel and her entire estate to Mrs Lothian and her husband. At the time Mrs Lothian and her husband were living in Scotland. Despite this Mrs Lothian spent nine months out of 12 over the next two years living with the deceased in the Hotel. To succeed with her claim Mrs Lothian had to show that the deceased had made an assertion; that she (Mrs Lothian) had relied upon that assertion and that she had in turn suffered a detriment.

Mrs Lothian succeeded in this claim. The important considerations were the extent of the lifestyle change Mrs Lothian had suffered in order to care for the deceased in her last years. The court also considered the argument raised by the estate that Mrs Lothian had also had the benefit of living in the property rent-free. The court did not consider that such free accommodation went any way towards compensating Mrs Lothian for the changes she had made to her life in order to provide care for the deceased at her request. In particular they took account of the fact that Mrs Lothian had not known how long she must endure these changes when she took it upon herself to provide the care and disrupt her life. It could have continued for many years and she was obviously prepared to take on that significant responsibility. The court held that Mrs Lothian was entitled to the entire estate.

How to contest a will

This is a complex area of law where you need expert advice.

If you are considering contesting a will, please contact Amanda Melton, our expert in contentious probate on 01494 790047 or email amanda.melton@ibblaw.co.uk