BusinessAgriculture

Farming is full of challenges so when you need legal advice, you want to be sure you’re getting it from someone who understands the complexities involved in agricultural family businesses.

Whether you are a farm owner or a tenant farmer, need help securing your farming future or resolving a land dispute, we have an experienced team that can help you.

Contact us for advice on:

  • Disputes
  • Tenancies
  • Inheritance planning
  • Partnership agreements
  • Mineral rights
  • Sporting rights
  • Development land

Download our Protect your family farming business for tips on avoiding potential problems.

A testimonial by Stephen Bostock, Farmer

“In 1974 an opportunity arose to buy the farm that my father had a tenancy on. It was decided to buy the farm as a partnership between myself, my mother, and my father. I emptied my bank account to raise the money, and took out the mortgage as my father was too old to get one on his own.

The farm was brought as joint tenancy as it was made clear to me back then that the intention was the farm would come to me, but provide a home and security for my mother and father. The farm paid the interest on the mortgage and I took out an endowment policy in my name, and used my income, to pay off the balance on its maturity in 1994. We invested money in new buildings, milk quota, milking parlour and an extension on the house.

In 1988 I was approached by my father, as he wished to make some provision for my sister. I queried this, as the farm was, as to our agreement, to come to me, but my father was worried about my sister, and to save any trouble, I went along with what he wanted. This involved me taking out a second endowment for a further 10 years to bring in half of the money he wished to give her, the rest to come from my parents on their deaths. I wanted to be fair, and was reassured that the farm would one day be mine, and that the agreement still stood.

Wills were made to this end and the farm’s ownership was changed to a tenancy in common. As far as I was concerned this was the end of the matter. The farm would be mine, and we had provided for my sister.

When my mother died in 1994, her will was in a form that mirrored our agreement so I carried on with life thinking that our agreement would come to pass.

In 2010, my wife and I were investing money to do up the house, which desperately needed some updating, when my father informed me that he had changed his mind, and that the agreement he had made in 1988 had been changed. I’ve found out since that he had actually changed our agreement a year after my mother’s death in 1994. Making sure that I never found out about the changes, by changing solicitors. Presumably to make sure that I stayed at the farm and continued to work there, keeping him at the house he loved. He probably knew that had I know about the variations to the agreement I would have struck out on my own.

He had significantly increased the amount that he wished to leave my sister. This left me in a position at 60 years of age, with the prospect of having to sell my livelihood, losing everything I had worked so hard for, losing everything I loved. I had upheld my side of the agreement to the letter, and had been betrayed.

We were incredibly lucky to be put in touch with Chafes Hague Lambert Solicitors. They listened to our case and explained our position, and with a barrister gave us guidance and fantastic advice. It is not an easy decision to take family to court, but we were facing losing everything we had worked for, it left me with no choice but to fight for what was right.

To anyone trying to think about succession of the farm, I can only say get good, independent legal advice, make sure everyone is clear about what will happen, and that the agreements are written in a manner that can’t be altered without all parties been aware. Unfortunately remember that there may be honour among thieves, but not much in families when money is involved. Don’t rely on a verbal agreement. And if you are in the kind of position I found myself in don’t give up, and seek good legal advice. I wouldn’t like anyone to go through the turmoil, and distress that myself and my family have been through. We settled out of court, thanks to the help of Chafes Hague Lambert, but it should never have come to this in the first place. Please get good advice.”