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The decision in the above case was handed down on 6 February 2024.

An appeal after the original district judges decision raised an interesting point with regard to two sections of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (“TOLATA”).  Namely, s15(3) and s14. 

In plain English the question was, when there was a dispute as to property or land entitlement, the court had only to take into account the views of the majority of those beneficiaries and were then not entitled to take into account the thoughts and wishes of the minority.

The facts of the case are that Raymond Savage ('Raymond') and his ex-wife Vanessa Savage ('Vanessa') were embroiled in matrimonial financial proceedings.  Vanessa sought sale of the parties land and property.  This incorporated 3 parcels of land including a campsite, tennis court and other facilities (the 'Properties').  The Properties were held upon a number of trusts for Raymond and his late brothers four children.  One of the children, Frank, wanted to buy out Raymond’s interest in the Properties before they were put on the open market (for around £650,000).  Frank had a business on the land and wanted this to continue.  Raymond also wanted to sell the Properties and move on with his life.  However, none of the parties could agree on how the sale should take place and for what value. 

A two day trial took place where expert evidence was heard as to the value and method of sale.  The judge made an order that gave Frank the right to buy out Raymond's interest in the Properties before they went on the open market.  Raymond thought he would get more if the Properties were sold openly and did not want to allow Frank to buy (cheaply).

This decision meant that the judge had gone against the rule in s15(3) of TOLATA that the court, when making an order for sale, should not prefer a minority beneficiary over the interest of someone with a larger “majority” share.  In this case, Frank had a smaller share than Raymond.  On appeal, the judge found in favour of Raymond (that the Properties could be sold on the open market).  Frank appealed again (supported by his mother and siblings). 

The final appeal restored the original decision (that Frank could buy Raymond's share) which meant that minority beneficiaries do have a say in how property, held on trust, can be sold.  This ruling shows that the court will take into account all the circumstances of the family dynamic, and all of their opinions, not just those of the person (or persons) who own the lion's share.

For more information about Contentious Probate cases that have recently gone to court, please read our overview blog of 'Contentious Private Client 2024' here. 

Our Contentious Probate team can assist with all types of inheritance and will disputes. For further advice please contact the team on 01484 558058.

The above article is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any part of the information given.