This case shows that the equitable doctrine of proprietary estoppel can still play a significant role in deciding court cases, which runs contrary to the general idea of testamentary freedom.
The doctrine provides that, where a person has been promised an interest in property and has, in reliance on it, incurred expenses or made sacrifices that he would not otherwise have made, the law provides a remedy. It is a common fact pattern that an individual is promised that they will receive a house or property on the death on the death of the current owner, and that individual then does something in reliance on that promise (such as working for less pay). Courts have a wide range of remedies available to resolve such disputes, which can include transferring the entire property to the claimant individual in certain circumstances.
Cases such as these should remind practitioners to take care to ensure that clients' testamentary documents and letters wishes are up-to-date. Whilst these may not be irrebuttable, a later testamentary document will go a long way towards confirming the client's true intentions in the face of opposing arguments.
The mother and son are now locked in a court battle after Mr Moore Jnr insisted his father - who is now in a care home with advanced dementia - repeatedly 'promised' him the whole £10million farm.