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How To Resolve A Farm Inheritance Dispute

Posted: Saturday, 23 March 2024 @ 07:51

There have been many farm inheritance disputes documented within the press, but due to the potential of such cases to be expensive and unpredictable if going before a Judge, it really makes sense to try to settle the case as early, but what are the best methods to deal a farm inheritance case?

It boils down to a set of guiding principles which apply to your situation with a particular emphasis on trying to apply as much skilful use of legal understanding and mediation type techniques as possible:

This includes the following:

1 Evaluate Your Case - Probably the most important tool within your hands and that of your lawyer. Due to the emotional nature of all inheritance disputes, it is very easy to misunderstand what is going on. Effective evaluation comes from consistent probing and a willingness to look at all available facts and ask searching questions of your situation. When we advise on a farm dispute we are seeking to find a clear overview and understand how we think your situation will play out.  Some questions to ask – What has happened? What are my legal and negotiation options? Have we really pinned down our understanding of the legal position or is there too much doubt? (Farm inheritance disputes can be complex but it is important not to overplay it) What are the costs/ benefits of the different options I can take? What are the specific legal costs which can be incurred? As it stands what do we think is going to happen? What is my my objective in all of this? Does the plan which the lawyer has suggested to me make me feel better?

2 Obtain as Much Key Evidence As You Can and Present It Compellingly -The nature of being in an farming inheritance dispute is there can be a lot of information which is not within your current knowledge. A key skill which can make a significant difference to long term outcomes is the ability to obtain useful (possibly pivotal) evidence which you should be able to do at low cost. Mastery of such evidence and an ability to present this in a compelling and interesting way is a skill which can not only save time and cost in helping your lawyer be informed but also can influence the other side and a Judge.  

3 Keep Control of Emotions  -The nature of all inheritance disputes often contains family history, and this makes it easy to make overly emotional decisions in dealing with your inheritance problem. This particularly applies to disputes on the farm. This can lead to poor judgment calls and making rash decisions which may lead to poor outcomes later. Generally, in the face of emotional stress  it will serve your interests to be calmer and it help you and your lawyer make better decisions. Detachment is key.

4 Apply Sensible and Low Cost Influencing Methods - To help solve your situation you can ask the other person directly for an explanation - If you are concerned about what has gone on, simply ask someone for their take on what happened either in person or in writing. A calm direct approach can work well. If  you are not comfortable asking the other person directly  you can  ask a mutual friend/relative to help sort it out . You do not necessarily have to ask a lawyer to solve your problem.

5 Apply Sensible and Relatively Lower Cost Lawyer Led Influencing Methods -This can include

  • Get Your Lawyer to write a formal letter.  One initial formal step which can be taken is to write a letter via your lawyer to the other side.
  • Have A Round Table Meeting. One step which can be relatively inexpensive compared to going to Court is sitting around the table in order to discuss issues is to move a dispute forward.
  • Engage In Mediation. With mediation, an independent person will help the two sides in a dispute to focus on the issue and consider the best way of solving it. A mediator is not there to make a decision but will help both sides to agree a solution. A good mediator can cost £2,500 plus Vat for the day which can be split between the parties. Mediation works in the majority of cases but despite this we are still cautious about using mediation (costs of preparing  can be high) and certain opponents are frankly not worth negotiating with. You should certainly not mediate if you believe fraud has taken place or an agreement will not be implemented.  

6 Use Early Neutral Evaluation - This is relatively unknow but has specific relevance for complex legal matters which farm inheritance disputes can become. Early Neutral Evaluation is when an independent and impartial expert is appointed to give the parties an assessment of the merits of the case. It is not binding so that the parties do not have to implement the assessment. The idea  is that a third party (such as a legal expert) provides the disputing parties with an objective view on the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases, which can then serve as a basis for negotiated settlement.     

7 Make Thoughtful Open Offers - One of the most important skills a lawyer can make is to make tactical offers which may go before the Court if it gets that far. Traditionally lawyers like to make solely Without Prejudice offers(which of course still have use) which are not seen by the Judge until after the main issue is determined at Court. We are a firm believer that where you are dealing with a farm inheritance dispute you should try to put as much as tactical pressure as possible on the other side by making offers to resolve your inheritance case which you want the Judge to see if the matter goes to Court. Such an approach can lead to costs awards being awarded in your favour and protecting you financially.    

8 Litigate Smartly - This means your lawyer trying to retain maximum control and discipline within the litigation process if you have to go that far.  We believe if you are going to use any legal process you have to be extremely careful in the forum you use so time and cost are not unnecessarily wasted especially as there are significant differences in the time frames/service delivery of the legal and negotiation methods you can use. e.g. mediation with a good mediator and use of the High Court with electronic and prompt Court filing are dispute resolution methods we do support provided it is the best option for you at a given time.