Promises, Promises – Don’t Rely on Them Unless They Are in Writing!

The trouble with promises that are not recorded in writing by a professional is that it can be very hard to prove after the event that they were ever made. In one case, a woman failed to establish that a neighbour who she cared for in his final months of life had assured her that she would not go unrewarded.

The woman who had lived across the road from the man for many years claimed that he had promised her that, on his death, his home would be sold and she would receive one-third of the proceeds. Following his death, aged 69, she claimed a beneficial interest in the property and sought to register a restriction against its title. However, she faced stiff resistance from the man’s son and daughter and the dispute was referred to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) for resolution.

In ruling on the matter, the FTT noted that, in the absence of documentary evidence of the alleged promise having been made, the woman bore a heavy burden of proof. Although she and her neighbour were close, and she had acted as his full-time carer during the last two to three months of his life, the FTT was not convinced that they had ever been engaged or cohabited.

There was no reliable evidence that the man had given a binding assurance in the terms alleged, as opposed to a mere statement of intent. To put any such intent into effect, the man – who died intestate – would have had to make a Will, but had clearly not wished to do so. Even had a promise been given, the woman had not relied on it to her substantial detriment, and she had failed to show that they had shared a common intention that she would have a share in the sale proceeds.

The FTT noted that it had the strong impression that the woman felt aggrieved that she had been left nothing from the man’s estate despite all the love and care she had given him. In the event, the Chief Land Registrar was directed to cancel her application to register a restriction against the property. The ruling meant that the property could be sold and the proceeds divided between the man’s children.

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