High-flying accountant who uprooted to Cornwall to run…

High-flying accountant who uprooted to Cornwall to run…

A high-flying accountant who uprooted to Cornwall to run a glamping site is locked in a £7.5m Shakespearean inheritance fight – compared by a judge to a ‘modern day King Lear’.

Angela Heyes, 48, and engineer husband Neil, 46, left their lives in Surrey behind 10 years ago to move west on the promise that they would inherit Angela’s parents’ farm, which doubles up as a glamping business with on-site yurt.

But following the death of her former airline pilot father Patrick Holt in 2020, the couple are now fighting a bitter High Court battle with her mother, Sarah Holt, over who owns the family holding, near Truro.

The couple claim they left behind their high-flying jobs on the back of promises by both of Angela’s parents that they would inherit the farm.

But Mrs Holt – backed by Angela’s siblings – is fighting the claim, in a battle set to cost the family around £1m in lawyers’ bills and which was said by a judge to be akin to a Shakespearean tragedy.

Angela Heyes, 48, and engineer husband Neil, 46, claim they left their lives in Surrey behind 10 years ago to move west on the promise that they would inherit Angela’s parents’ farm

The farm doubles up as a glamping business with on-site yurt, close to Devoran Creek

The farm doubles up as a glamping business with on-site yurt, close to Devoran Creek

Having settled in Cornwall, Angela quit her job with professional services company Accenture in 2019 and took a local job ‘at a reduced salary of £75,000 per annum,’ she said, as well as roles as a Girl Guides Leader and school governor in her adopted home county.

Her husband, Neil, works full time on the farm, which includes a livery business and glamping site, complete with a 22ft yurt, in picturesque Devoran village, near Truro.

King Lear, written by Shakespeare in the early 17th century tells the story of a king of ancient Britain who divides his kingdom between his daughters, with tragic consequences.

And Judge Paul Matthews likened the case to the historical tragedy following a pre-trial hearing at the High Court.

‘The proceedings are between a daughter and her husband on the one side, and her mother and her father’s estate, supported by the daughter’s two siblings, on the other,’ he said.

‘It is a tragedy for all concerned. This is not only because it splits a family, pitting a parent and two children against another child in a dispute about family property, like a modern-day King Lear.’

The court heard that Angela’s father Patrick Holt and his wife owned farmland close to Truro, which included a substantial house, cottage, gardens and fields.

Angela and Neil claim that, in 2013, while visiting her parents in Cornwall, there had been a conversation about the future of the 60-plus acre site.

‘During that conversation, my father told us that he wanted us to relocate to live nearby to the farm so that we could learn the ropes in relation to the farming business and take on the farm, and he specifically assured us that the farm would be ours one day and that he wanted it to stay in the family for future generations,’ she said.

‘After that formal conversation, Neil and I, together with our two young children…abandoned our plans in the Guildford area and arranged to move to Cornwall at the end of July 2014.

‘We bought a house right next to the farm, and Neil gave up his job and has worked on the farm since September 2015.’

Angela told the judge that promises by her mother and father about she and Neil getting the farm were given repeatedly and voluntarily.

‘I would not have moved down to Cornwall with my family if I thought that this was not the case,’ she said.

An aerial view of the farm's border in the Cornish village near a creek

An aerial view of the farm’s border in the Cornish village near a creek

A booking website describes it as a 'traditional Mongolian Yurt furnished with a warm double bed and children's beds as required' on a small working farm

A booking website describes it as a ‘traditional Mongolian Yurt furnished with a warm double bed and children’s beds as required’ on a small working farm

The couple are now suing Angela’s mother personally and as executrix of her father’s estate, claiming that the land is theirs due to the alleged promises made, under the legal concept of ‘proprietary estoppel.’

But Mrs Holt is fighting the claim, pointing to the fact that Angela has siblings, sister Jennifer and half-brother Justin, who is Mrs Holt’s son by a previous relationship.

She told the court that any assurances made to her daughter and son-in-law were ‘too uncertain in extent’ to give them a good claim to the entirety of the land.

It was also clear that both Angela and Neil knew that no ‘sufficiently clear assurances’ had been given or were intended to be relied upon.

In her evidence to the court, she said: ‘So, [Angela] has time and time again admitted that she always knew she had not been promised the whole farm, and that she knew that if she did get the lion’s share of the farm, she would have to ‘settle up’ with her sister and half-brother.

‘There was no promise or assurance, and they knew it.’

Despite its value due to the potential for development, the farmland is not large and cannot itself support a family, her lawyers said. The late Mr Holt had not been a fulltime farmer there, instead working as a pilot, which enabled him to keep the farm going.

It was said that Angela and Neil had also not devoted their lives to the farm on the back of any promises about the future – as children have done in other similar farming family disputes – but instead had non-farming careers elsewhere in the country.

Her daughter, who had been the main ‘breadwinner’ of the two, had not quit her well-paid job until 2019, she said. Having ‘had another life,’ her daughter had ‘chosen to give it up.’

But Mrs Holt - backed by Angela's siblings - is fighting the claim, in a battle set to cost the family around £1m in lawyers' bills and which was said by a judge to be akin to King Lear

But Mrs Holt – backed by Angela’s siblings – is fighting the claim, in a battle set to cost the family around £1m in lawyers’ bills and which was said by a judge to be akin to King Lear

Discussions about their future at the farm were always provisional, she said, given the need to take account of what they might inherit, how much they might have to pay to Angela’s siblings, and the possibility Mr and Mrs Holt might need their assets to pay for care home fees.

The case reached court last month after an application by Mrs Holt for ‘reverse summary judgment,’ effectively ending her daughter and son-in-law’s claim without it getting to trial.

Giving judgment last week, Judge Matthews said the couple’s case was ‘weak,’ but rejected Mrs Holt’s application for judgment, ruling that it would be a matter for a judge at a full trial.

‘The resolution of this dispute will require the court to consider all the evidence, including in particular the cross-examination of the various witnesses upon their witness statements,’ he said.

‘On all the material before me, my conclusion on the application for summary judgment is that, although the case is weak, it is not so weak that I can say it has only a fanciful or theoretical prospect of success.

‘Accordingly, I cannot grant summary judgment.’

The judge ordered the competing parties to try to settle their differences outside of court, pointing out that the case would ‘ruin’ Angela and Neil if it went to trial and they lost.

from www.dailymail.co.uk Source link

[2024-04-18 22:45:51

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