How to challenge an unjust will
Q My question is a little sad in that it involves difficulties within my family which we cannot resolve. As the only son of my parents I farmed along with my father for almost 30 years and my siblings had little or no input into the farm. I always thought that I would inherit the farm and have worked on that basis since I left school. After a recent argument between family members, I was upset to learn that my parents have now changed the terms of their will to effectively exclude me. Is there anything I can do because I risk losing my livelihood if anything were to happen to them.
A: The difficulties around succession and estate planning are very sensitive for many farm families in Ireland. Most of us are aware of at least one situation which has resulted in legal action as a result of a will which has left relatives unhappy. For this reason, I cannot recommend strongly enough that if you are considering making a will you should discuss the matter with family members as well as getting legal advice from a professional both on the making of the will and also on the tax implications for those who will inherit under the will.
I have previously looked at the possibility of legally challenging the reversal of a promise, for example, when a parent has promised a child that if they work on the farm without receiving an income that they will one day inherit the farm and then decide to break this promise after a number of years.
This is called proprietary estoppel and you should seek legal advice if you think that it concerns you.
Many people learn, sometimes after the death of a loved one, that their will does not meet with their expectations and they feel that they have not been properly provided for.
An Unfair Will
A child that feels that they have been unfairly treated by his/her parent under the terms of the will can bring legal proceedings to challenge the terms.
The test that the judge will apply in deciding whether or not a child should succeed in having the terms of the will changed is whether the testator (that is the person who has made the will and is deceased) has failed in their moral duty to make proper provision for the child in question.