Another case illustrating that it is not a good idea to where businesses are concerned for an owner to follow a succession plan and then backtrack on that plan on later personal inclination or circumstances.
In Moore v Moore, 2016 EWHC 2202 Ch the son of a mentally incapacitated farmer has been awarded sole ownership of the farming business, after he persuaded the England & Wales High Court that the farm had been promised to him many years ago.
Stephen Moore, now 48, has worked on the family’s 650-acre Manor Farm in Stapleford, Wiltshire for minimal pay since his childhood. He became a salaried partner in 1998 and in 2003 his father Roger took him into full equity partnership. It was claimed that his father had explicitly promised him the farm, creating an expectation on Stephen’s part that he would inherit it.
By 2008, however, Roger Moore had begun to show signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, forcing him to take a less dominant role in running the business. Roger’s mental decline continued, accompanied by rows with his son. In 2012 he even made a new will disinheriting Stephen. Stephen contended that his father had been influenced by his wife, who wanted their daughter to inherit a share of the business.
‘It seems to me that everything points to an over-arching plan under which Stephen would inherit the whole farm and business in due course and that Stephen was told this was the case’, said Monty J in his judgment. ‘The fact is that promises were made, and in reliance on them [Stephen] devoted his entire working life to the farm and the business.’
Accepting Stephen Moore’s equitable estoppel claim to Roger’s share of the farming assets, as well as all associated cash, Monty ordered that the farming partnership between father and son should be dissolved because of Roger’s dementia.