Example case study: proprietary estoppel claim leads to dispute between siblings

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The following case study is based on a matter that our contentious probate solicitors typically take on.

Our contentious probate solicitors helped two brothers come to an agreement with their sister regarding their late father’s Will after he died intestate.

Promise of house in written note

Tom and Henry (our clients) had been living in their family home with their parents for over 30 years. Both had contributed significantly to the household, including maintenance, improvements of the property, and even building an extension. The brothers were promised that the house would be left to them by their parents, with their father setting out his wishes in a written note, but regrettably not in the form of a valid Will.

Tom and Henry’s father died not long after the note was made, however, he died intestate as he never wrote a Will. As a result of his intestacy, their late father’s estate was distributed in equal shares between Tom, Henry and their sister, Carrie. The question that arose was whether the house properly formed part of the estate.

Carrie was entitled to a one-third share of the estate and wanted an immediate transfer of the property into the names of her and her brothers. However, Tom and Henry disputed this as Carrie had received substantial financial help from her parents during their lifetime of loans totalling at least £80,000, which had factored into their father’s decision as to the property.

Proprietary estoppel claim

Tom and Henry were advised to put in a proprietary estoppel claim (where someone is told a share of property or land will be transferred to them at a later date, but the owner goes back on their promise or effect is given to that assurance), as well as a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Our clients were encouraged to obtain three Estate Agents’ valuations of the property, which required substantial repair work, as well as details of all of the works they had undertaken on the home throughout the years of living there.

We were instructed to assist Tom and Henry in securing a resolution, including retaining the property as it was their only source of accommodation.

Settling the claim

To settle the claim, our inheritance dispute solicitors instructed Counsel and advised Tom and Henry to attend mediation with their sister. Before mediation took place, Carrie’s solicitors offered to resolve the dispute via a settlement agreement.

The terms of the agreement were that Carrie would receive a sum of £100,000 (less than a quarter of the property’s value) and some family possessions, including valuable antiques. Tom and Henry took the whole of the beneficial interest in the property between them.

Contact our contentious probate solicitors in Bristol

If you or someone you know requires advice on a proprietary estoppel claim, our specialist lawyers may be able to help. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill in our online enquiry form.


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