Advice For You

Proprietary Estoppel

What happens if you have been promised property from an Estate by the deceased but this has not been documented?

Situations often arise where during a person’s lifetime they make a verbal promise to another assuring them that they will be left property upon death but this is then often not reflected in the will.

What can you do?

In situations where a verbal promise has been made that on their death a person will receive an interest in land but then this was not provided for either in their will or as a result of the Intestacy Rules, in certain circumstances, there may be grounds to bring a claim for proprietary estoppel.

What is Proprietary Estoppel?

Proprietary Estoppel is a legal framework which can be used to stop a person or their Executors from going back on earlier verbal promises when the result of this would cause detriment to someone else.

Proprietary Estoppel Claims

In order to succeed in claiming proprietary estoppel, there are three requirements that must be present. If any of these three elements cannot be demonstrated a Proprietary Estoppel claim will not succeed.

The requirements are:

  1. An assurance – a clear and unambiguous assurance with sufficient clarity
  2. A reliance – reliance on the assurance by the Claimant
  3. A detriment – to the Claimant to show that as a result of reliance on the assurance, their actions caused detriment, e.g. working for lesser pay or relocating.

The Court will consider all the three elements together.

Based on these three elements, it must be demonstrated to the Court that it would be unconscionable for the Claimant not to be awarded compensation.

When Proprietary Estoppel is established, how the Claimant is compensated is at the Court’s discretion. This is dependant on the individual facts of each case and will be decided by the court based on what they consider to be a proportionate reward.

The Other Side – How to Protect Your Estate from Proprietary Estoppel Claims

The basis of Proprietary Estoppel claims relies on a verbal promise being made but not physically documented. In order to protect against this, it may be helpful to consider planning how you wish to distribute your assets to avoid conflicting promises being made.

Preparation of a Will would be beneficial as this would clearly demonstrate who was to be a beneficiaries and can be accompanied by a letter of wishes explaining these decisions which could offer further security.

An essential aspect of protecting an estate from a proprietary estoppel claim is to not make verbal promises that are not intended to be kept or that may be subject to change in the future.

Should you require legal advice on bringing or defending a Proprietary Estoppel claim please contact our specialist Contentious Probate Solicitors on 0161 785 3500.