When Inheritance Disputes Get Violent

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When does the inheritance of an estate get dangerous, writes Danny Curran, CEO and founder of Finders International. When it leads to violence and threats…

Thankfully, most arguments about who is the rightful beneficiary of an estate rarely get this fair, but an article in this week’s Farmers Guardian caught our eye when a thirty-two-year-old Welsh man was jailed, after threatening to kill his aunt in an inheritance dispute over a farm.

Self-employed builder Kevin Lloyd Jones took a knife out of his pocket and pretended to slide it across his own throat. Then, he shook his aunt’s hand and said she needed to make sure the farm was signed over to other family members within a day.

Jones is the grandsons of the original farm owner. He admitted threatening to kill his aunt, Helen Jones, on 31 August this year, possessing a knife, drink driving and also harassing his uncle, John Jones, between 5 August and 1 September. He also admitted an unprovoked attack on his former brother-in-law, who was punched through the window of his vehicle and left with a black eye.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, and a five-year restraining order was made, ordering him not to approach his aunt or uncle, or their two daughters, and forbidding him to go near their homes.

While farming families will be just as likely to fall out over inheritance issues as any others, the stakes can often be higher as land, properties and succession usually involve sums far more significant than those in the domestic sector. The high values of farms and estates can run into millions.

In one recent case quoted in the Farmers Guardian article, a West County farmer used mediation rather than going to court to settle his case. The farmer wanted to divide his property among his three children, but all of them had fallen out over the settlement proposed.

Mediation is often the preferred solution in such disputes and can save a lot of time and money.

Danny Curran says: “Thankfully, this kind of fall-out is unusual, but it shows just how strongly people can feel about who should or shouldn’t inherit. While having a will in place in cases such as this doesn’t guarantee against such fallings-out, perhaps detailed discussions about who will inherit and what before the testator dies can help.

“Defra research reckons only one in three farms have succession plans in place, which is madness when you consider what can be at stake.

“We offer services to private executors and administrators who are dealing with farms and land. They include dormant asset searches, probate property sales and services, locating missing wills and missing beneficiary indemnity insurance.”