30th November 2023
Thrings Farms partnering with Farmers Weekly, answer readers’ questions. Ben Coulson advises on issues on deeds for farming properties.
Q. My father had two farms and two yards. One of the yards was our home farm, with a house and farm buildings. The other farm has two dwellings on it, one of which was my grandfather’s home and farm sheds. When my father made his will he did not mention my grandfather’s home and sheds for anyone to inherit. He left the ground around these buildings to my brother – does that mean my brother also inherits the two houses and the farm sheds?
A. Yours is a complex situation and to give you a clear and nuanced answer, I would need to see more documents including, as a minimum; the property deeds for both your father’s and grandfather’s properties, and their Wills, if they exist.
While strongly recommending that you seek legal advice, I can answer your question in general terms.
Firstly, you first consider what happened to your grandfather’s home and farm sheds when he died. If he left a Will, then, as long as it validly executed, his home and his farm sheds will pass in accordance with the terms of the Will. If, however, he did not have a Will, then the assets will pass under a set of statutory rules that outline how someone’s estate passes in the absence of a Will. These are known as the Rules of Intestacy and the beneficial order of priority starts with the spouse, then children, parents and then siblings.
Assuming your father inherited your grandfather’s home and farm sheds, we must then consider the terms of your father’s Will. This directs how the assets he owns will pass, and to whom. You mention that your father left “the ground around your grandfather’s home and sheds” to your brother. A lot would now depend on how this land is held at the Land Registry – whether as a whole or in separate parcels.
I am assuming that this is a specific gift in the Will. If so, then only your father’s assets identified in the specific gift will pass to your brother. If it is not clear from the wording of the gift what is included then, if available, the original file should be sought from the solicitors who prepared the will. This would hopefully provide more context on the gift.
If your father has inherited your grandfather’s house and farm sheds, and they are held on a separate title to the land surrounding them, where there is no specific provision for these assets in his Will they will form part of your father’s residuary estate and pass to his named residuary beneficiaries. If there is any ambiguity in the wording of the gift or the extent of the assets being specifically gifted, advice may need to be sought.
This is a complex situation and the specifics of how it should be handled will come down to the details. A specialist lawyer will be able to look at your case alongside all the relevant information and help you determine the terms and extent of your father’s Will.