Thorner v Curtis and others: ChD 26 Oct 2007

The claimant said that the deceased, his father and a farmer, had made representations to him over many years that if the claimant continued to work on the farm, he would leave the farm to him in his will. He died intestate. He claimed a proprietary estoppel. The court asked the question of whether in establishing an obligation to make a disposition in a will, an express promise had to be found.
Held: Where the assurances relied on fall significantly short of express promises made in terms as such, it will be all the more important for the claimant to be able to support his case with clear and substantial detrimental reliance, and perhaps with evidence from others corroborating the meaning and intention which he (the claimant) imputes to the deceased’s words or actions. An estoppel had arisen in this case by the father’s conduct. In the circumstances of this estate the expectation created could be fulfilled without causing injustice to other beneficiaries, by applying the minimum equity principle.


John Randall QC


[2007] EWHC 2422 (Ch)




England and Wales


CitedGillett v Holt and Another CA 23-Mar-2000
Repeated Assurances Created Equitable Estoppel
Repeated assurances, given over years, that the claimant would acquire an interest in property on the death of the person giving the re-assurance, and upon which the claimant relied to his detriment, could found a claim of equitable estoppel. The . .
CitedInwards v Baker CA 13-Jan-1965
An indulgent father had encouraged his son to build a bungalow on his, the father’s, land. The son had done so in the expectation, encouraged by the father, that he would be permitted to remain in occupation.
Held: The court formulated the . .
CitedRamsden v Dyson HL 11-May-1866
The Vice-Chancellor had held that two tenants of Sir John Ramsden, the owner of a large estate near Huddersfield, were entitled to long leases of plots on the estate. They ostensibly held the plots as tenants at will only, but they had spent their . .
CitedUglow v Uglow and others CA 27-Jul-2004
The deceased had in 1976 made a promise to the claimant. The promise was not honoured in the will, and the claimant asserted a proprietary estoppel.
Held: The judge was right to have found that the promise was bound up with the claimant being . .
CitedWayling v Jones CA 2-Aug-1993
The plaintiff and defendant were in a homosexual relationship. The plaintiff worked for the defendant for nominal expenses against his repeated promise to leave the business to him in his will. A will was made to that effect, but the defendant sold . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromThorner v Major and others CA 2-Jul-2008
The deceased had written a will, revoked it but then not made another. The claimant had worked for the deceased understanding that property would be left to him, and now claimed that the estate property was held under a trust for him.
Held: . .
At First InstanceThorner v Major and others HL 25-Mar-2009
The deceased had made a will including a gift to the claimant, but had then revoked the will. The claimant asserted that an estoppel had been created in his favour over a farm, and that the defendant administrators of the promisor’s estate held it . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate, Estoppel

Updated: 07 February 2022; Ref: scu.260349