Peter Thorner revoked a will he had made in 1997, in order to exclude one of the beneficiaries, and never made another. The will had left the farm and most of his estate to David. On Peter’s death in 2005, as no will could be found, the laws of intestacy applied. In such cases, the estate passes to the nearest relatives.
In the High Court, David argued that the two men had an understanding that on Peter’s death David would inherit the farm and it would therefore be unfair to divide the estate according to the intestacy laws. The Court was satisfied that his cousin intended him to have the property and awarded him the farm and the agricultural assets. Non-agricultural assets of approximately £1m were awarded to Peter’s relatives.
Two of Peter’s sisters and a niece appealed against this decision and three appeal judges have now ruled that although David had a ‘strong moral claim’ regarding the property, the claim should not have been upheld and it would be a ‘dangerous precedent’ for him to inherit the property. Whatever Peter Thorner’s wishes were, there was no evidence that he had made a firm promise to David that he would inherit the farm.
Permission to appeal to the House of Lords was refused and David Thorner was ordered to pay legal costs.