Image of a farm

‘Ruinous’ farm dispute sees siblings go head-to-head in Court of Appeal

In a prolonged legal battle over a mother’s will and the distribution of a £6 million family farm, a brother and sister are trapped in a fight that is causing them “ruinous” financial loss.

The Court of Appeal heard the brother, Simon Morton, had spent most of his adult life working “long hours for only modest pay” on the land that his parents owned – Reddish Hall Farm in Lymm, Cheshire.

While his younger sister, Julie Morton, was reportedly “discouraged from an early age from working in agriculture” and chose to pursue a business career, the father was claimed to have assured his son that he would inherit the farm, as reported in the Times.

The father died in 2001 and Simon continued working on the farm for 15 years with his mother. Before the mother died in 2016, both the son and mother were said to have owned half the assets from the farm.

The death caused a row between Simon and Julie since the mother had left her £2 million share to the sister – after cutting the son out of the will as a result of an alleged row, according to the son’s relatives.

The dispute has repeatedly gone back and forth – with it currently standing in its third court hearing at the Court of Appeal in London. The son won the first round in the High Court, forcing the sister to hand him half of her inheritance. Yet in another ruling, the son was forced to hand over about £700,000 to his sister.

The mother’s final will, which was drafted in 2016, “gave the whole of her estate to Julie”, although it gave Simon a six-month, time-limited option to buy out her share in the farm partnership, said the Times.

It’s said the judge ruled that it was likely that the mother changed her will after her daughter had “undermined her confidence” in Simon. The judge said that there was “no substantial evidence that Julie crossed the line from advice and persuasion to coercion or misrepresentation” concerning the mother’s decision.

In a decision made last year, the judge sided with the son’s contention and granted him an increase of £956,850 to his share of the partnership on the grounds that he had sacrificed himself on the farm. However, in a later decision, the same judge determined that the sister was entitled to more than £700,000 as her share of the company’s profits since the mother’s passing.

The judges said that they would give their ruling at a later date.

Read more stories

Join over 6,000 wills and probate practitioners – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Friday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.