Legal Hypothetical: Granddaughter pursues broken promises

Granddaughter pursues broken promises

WHEN Penny and her father fall on tough times, they stay with Penny’s grandmother, Jane for twelve months.

Penny is only ten years old at the time.

After Penny and her father move-out, they maintain a close relationship with Jane.

Unfortunately, Penny’s father unexpectedly passes-away, when Penny is in her 30s.

Jane says to Penny, “Don’t worry, I will look after you in my will.”

A few years pass and when Penny is looking to buy her first home, Jane says, “I will give you $100,000 now or you can have it as part of your inheritance.”

No money changes hands.

Penny continues to have a close relationship with Jane until her grandmother passes-away 20 years later.

Penny discovers that she receives 20 percent of Jane’s estate under her will, with the rest of the estate going to Jane’s daughter.

Penny makes several claims against Jane’s estate.

She says that the unfulfilled promises that Jane made to her, amount to a breach of contract or give rise to an “equitable estoppel”.

Penny says that in any event, the provision she receives under the will is not “proper and adequate” and that she should receive 50 percent of the estate.

In relation to the contract claim, the Court finds that the “terms” of the alleged contract are too vague and too uncertain to be enforceable and there was no “exchange” of promises which would give rise to the necessary “consideration”.

Similarly, the Court finds that the alleged promises were not sufficiently “clear and unequivocal” and also dismisses Penny’s estoppel claim, citing that Penny did not demonstrate that she suffered a “detrimental reliance” that was unconscionable in the circumstances.

However, the Court finds that Penny’s cohabitation with Jane, during her childhood, constituted a partial dependency and because she had a close relationship with her grandmother, found that there were “factors warranting” the making of an order in Penny’s favour.

Nonetheless, the Court ultimately finds that Penny’s inheritance of 20 percent of the estate constituted “adequate provision for her proper maintenance” and dismisses Penny’s final claim.

Email Manny Wood, principal solicitor at TB Law at or call him on (02) 66 487 487.

By Manny WOOD, Solicitor

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