pertinent issues

Question 5

This case raises the following pertinent issues:

  1. How are property rights shared when an individual dies intestate?
  2. Whether there was a vaild agreement between Eden and Blossom.
  3. Whether there was a valid agreement between Daisy and Cherry.
  4. Whether Daisy validly bequeathed Cherry her share of her interest in Hope Forest, in her Will.
  5. Whether Blossom’s letter to Cherry was valid and binding.
  1. The sharing of interests to property when an individual dies intestate.

First, the property of a person who dies without a will is governed under Section 46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. Accordingly, under UK’s rules of intestacy, the property of a person who dies intestate is shared strictly among spouses and close relatives of the deceased. In the event the deceased had no spouse, the property is divided among the deceased’s siblings. Such division will be subject to certain conditions, which include the following: the deceased must have left behind an estate; the deceased must have had no children, grandchildren or great grandchildren; there must be no surviving partner; and in the event the deceased only leaves a niece or a nephew, the parent of nephew or niece must have been directly related by blood to the deceased. The rules go further to provide that in situations where the deceased leaves no immediate relative, the property will be divided to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so on. And if the deceased left no relative at all, the property belongs to the Crown.

In this case, Ash passed away intestate. In the event Ash had no immediate next of kin such as a spouse or child, his interests in the Hope Forest belonged to the remaining brothers. In the outline of fact, there is no indication that Ash had immediate close family. Therefore, Ash’s interest in and to Home Forest should have been divided equally among the remaining brothers.

  • The validity of the agreements between Eden and Blossom; and Daisy and Cherry.

The English doctrine of proprietary estoppel prevents individuals from falling back on their promises, which they made pursuant to an agreement to acquire interests in property. English jurisprudence has a variety of cases that brought more clarity on this doctrine. For example, in Dillwyn v. Llewelyn, [1862] 4 De G.F.& J. 517, a father had promised his son some property. Accordingly, the son expended many resources in developing the property, hoping that the property would soon belong to him. However, the father failed to give the son his proprietary interest over the property. The Court relied on proprietary estoppel to hold that the son was entitled to the property.

Also, in Inwards v Baker [1965] 2 QB 29, a father had promised to give his son some portion of land. Accordingly, the son went ahead to build property on the said land and lived there for about thirty years. However, the father failed to bequeath the land to the son as he had earlier promised. Later on, when the personal representatives of the father sought to evict the son from the land, the son filed a complaint to the court. The court applied proprietary estoppel to hold that the son was entitled to the portion of land.

It can therefore be observed that some requirements must be met for proprietary estoppel to be applicable. First, the claiming party must have had an assurance that they would get proprietary interest. In Pascoe v Turner [1979] 1 WLR 431, the court recognized the assurance that the Defendant could own the house after the Defendant separated from the Plaintiff. Next, there must be reliance on the assurance by the person claiming proprietary estoppel. And that lastly, the claimant must have suffered as a result of following the assurance. According to Inwards v Baker [1965] 2 QB 29, such detriment may include the expense incurred in purchasing property.

The proprietary estoppel rule can be contrasted with the parol evidence rule, which provides that parties to an agreement cannot purport to introduce extraneous evidence that alters the parties’ intention in the original agreement. The parties’ further contract can only be permissible under strict conditions. It follows; the parties’ future contract can only be valid and binding if it is separate from the main agreement. Also, the new agreement must not contain any provision that contradicts the original agreement. In the case of Mitchill v. Lath, [1928] 247 N.Y. 377, the Court held that a new agreement whose terms vary the provisions of an original contract between the parties is not enforceable unless the new agreement is distinct from the original agreement.

In the instant case, the five siblings had decided to enter an agreement and purchase the property with the purpose of having a tree-planting project. The parties duly performed their intentions and bought the land. All the five siblings were estopped by the initial agreement when they incurred expenses to buy the land with an expectation of having the tree planting project. It is also worth noting that the parol evidence rule does not apply to the instant case because the side agreements entered by the parties after the main agreement were in writing and not in any other extraneous form.

It follows; the separate agreements entered by Eden and Blossom; and Daisy and Cherry were invalid because they went against the parties’ intention in the main agreement. Notably, the original intention of the parties was to buy the land for the tree planting project. Therefore, each of the parties incurred costs to purchase the land and incur any relevant cost to further their intention under the original agreement. This means that the parties are estopped from entering any further agreement to divert from the original intention to carry out the tree planting project. The agreements are therefore invalid, null and void.

  • The requirements for the validity of a will.

Under Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 in UK, a valid and enforceable will must contain the following terms: the will must be written; the testator must append his signature on the will; and there must be at least two witnesses during the execution of the will. It is worth noting that the said Section also provided that the testator must have shown an intention to make the will effective. The court in Wright v Rogers [1869] LR 1 PD 678 held that A will can be contested if the person contesting the will has strong evidence to assert their allegations.

In the instant action, Daisy left a will to Cherry, which will bequeath all of Daisy’s interest and property to Cherry. It is worth noting that Daisy had the intentions of having Cherry obtain her share of her interest in and to Hope Forest. Therefore, it can be concluded that Daisy’s will was valid.    

  • The legal effect of Blossom’s letter to Cherry.

Under English contract law, a valid contract is formed when an offer is accepted by the receiving party. There are several rules that govern the acceptance of an offer. First, according to Entorres v Miles Far East [1955] EWCA Civ 3, the offeree must receive a notice of acceptance from the offeror. Therefore, the offeree must make attempts to communicate his acceptance of the offer, to the offeror. Also, in Butler Machine Tool v Ex-cell-o Corporation, [1979] 1 WLR 401; [1979] 1 All ER 965; (1977) 121 SJ 406; [1979] CLY 338, the court held that an offeree’s conduct can amount to a valid communication of acceptance. The court in Felthouse v Bindle, 1862] EWHC CP J35 also held that silence can never amount to a valid communication of acceptance.

With specific regard to offers sent via mail, acceptance would be validly communicated when the offeree posted his acceptance on the mail. This was held in Adams v. Lindsell, [1818] 1 B & Ald 681, where the court held that under the postal rule, an offeree communicates acceptance even though the offeror has not received the communication.

In the instant action, Blossom made an offer to Cherry for separate management of Hope Forest. However, Cherry could not accept the offer because of his health conditions. For that reason, Cherry had no way of communicating her acceptance to Blossom. Therefore, there was no acceptance and no agreement formed thereby.

In conclusion, the current ownership of Hope Forest is as follows: First, Ash’s interest in the property was shared equally among all the remaining four sons. Therefore, upon Ash’s death, all the parties had an equal share in Hope Forest. Eden’s agreement to sell his share of Hope Forest to Blossom is estopped under the proprietary estoppel doctrine. Accordingly, Blossom and Eden still retain their share of Hope Forest that they respectively had before their invalid agreement. Also, the agreement to be formed between Daisy and Cherry was void ab initio and could not be enforced. When Daisy died, she left her estate to Cherry. Therefore, currently, Cherry owns the largest share of Hope Forest..

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