In order to make effective gifts on death, the best way to do so is to make a Will, preferably with the advice of a solicitor.
However, there are instances when a proprietary estoppel scenario can arise based on the fact that you made a promise to someone. The person to whom a promise has been made would need to prove that a promise or an assurance was made to them, which was relied upon by them, and as a result of this they suffered a detriment.
James v James
One such case where this line of argument was pursued was in the case of James v James and others 2018 EWHC 43(Ch). The case arose because the son of the deceased, who was excluded from his father’s Will, was claiming that his father had promised him land. The Judge found that even though in the past his father had discussed making his Will in favour of his son, this was not the same as promising to do so.
A further interesting point that was made by the Judge was that even if a promise had been proven (which he did not believe was evidenced), then as the son was being paid proper wages, he failed to evidence the reliance and detriment on such a promise.
This attempt at proving an entitlement to land after death based upon a promise failed. However, there are plenty of cases in which a promise is evident and the person relying on it has suffered a significant detriment i.e. declining paid work in reliance on the promise, and these cases can and do succeed.
Davies v Davies
In the case of Davies v Davies and Others  EWHC 1384 (Ch) the son of a farmer successfully brought a proprietary estoppel claim as he was able to prove that oral promises were made, were relied upon and as such he did not pursue other potential careers paths leading to his detriment in investing all his time and money on his father’s farm. The Court awarded him the whole farm, excluding a Bungalow, as opposed to a fifth of it which was what the Will had dictated.
We Can Help
At MW Solicitors, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those who wish to challenge a will.
Sarah and Ravandeep are members of our Estate and Trust Disputes Team based at MW Guildford. If you believe you may have inadvertently made such a promise or wish to rely on a promise of a gift on death our specialist Estate and Trust Dispute Solicitors are here to help you. Don't delay, call our Team today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org