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‘Cowshed Cinderella’ Wins £1.3 Million from Parents

by Ridley&Hall in Contentious probate, Helen Dandridge, Sarah Young, Will Disputes posted March 2, 2015.

A farmer’s daughter dubbed the ‘Cowshed Cinderella’ has been awarded £1.3 million in damages from her parents after a court agreed that she had a beneficial interest in her parents’ farm.

Eirian Davies from Carmarthenshire spent over 30 years of her life working at her parents farm which comprised 182 acres of land. She did this for little or no pay after they had promised her that she would inherit the farm when they died. Eirian, who is now 45, said in court that she missed out on her freedom including going to Young Farmers’ Dances with her sisters because she had to stay at home to look after the farm.

Eirian told the court, “Even on my birthday, when the other girls were having things, they would say: ‘You will have the damn lot one day, it will all be yours’.” At one point the daughter left the farm to go elsewhere but her father begged her to come back to work on the farm.

The daughter claimed she was shown a draft Will in 2009 in which the majority of her parents’ estate was left to her, but she subsequently discovered that her parents actually intended to put the property in trust for the benefit of all three daughters equally.

Mr & Mrs Davies’ relationship with their daughter deteriorated due to their dislike of her partners and their fear she would have children which would affect her ability to look after the farm. In 2012 a physical altercation took place and thereafter Mr & Mrs Davies brought possession proceedings to evict her from the farm cottage. She claimed that she had a beneficial interest in the farm and was entitled to a share. Her claim was based on the legal principle of ‘proprietary estoppel’.

The court agreed that Miss Davies had relied on the promises of her parents about her inheritance and that this reliance had been to her detriment. The parents appealed the ruling, but in May 2014 they lost their appeal. The court was then left to determine the size of Miss Davies’ interest in the farm, which has been valued at £3.8m. The High Court in Cardiff has awarded her £1.3m to enable her to start a farm of her own.

This case is unusual because Mr & Mrs Davies are still alive. Situations like this, which often involve farmland, often only arise after the owners die and the person discovers that they have not inherited what they were promised, either because there is a Will which distributes the estate in some other way, or there is no Will and the intestacy rules then dictate how the estate is to be divided.

Had Mr & Mrs Davies passed away with a Will which placed the farm in trust for all three daughters equally, their daughter would still have been entitled to bring a claim for proprietory estoppel, or alternatively under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975.

These are complex cases which require specialist legal advice. Ridley & Hall’s Contentious Probate team have years of experience of bringing these types of claims. Call us free on 0843 289 4640 for practical, friendly advice or email us. We can offer you a free 30 minute consultation and if you do want us to act on your behalf, we will be clear about our costs up front.

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