Claims Based On A Promise

Proprietary estoppel/promissory estoppel

There are two types of promise – promises in relation to land and promises generally. In either case, it is necessary to establish that a promise was made and that the person receiving the promise acted to their detriment in reliance of that promise.

Claims Based On A Promise

Promissory estoppel is generally a defence to a claim. It is not usually an action in its own right. It arises where there is either a contractual relationship or duty of care. It is rarely relevant in Will disputes.

Proprietary estoppel generally occurs where an individual makes a promise to another in relation to property. These are more commonly associated with Will disputes. The Deceased may give some individual assurance or promise that upon their death they will leave a property to that individual. If the Will fails to make such provision a claim in proprietary estoppel may arise.

The elements are as follows:

  1. The representation or assurance must be that the individual has or would have an interest in a specific property.
  2. The individual must rely on the assurance by the promisor in circumstances where it was intended or known that the assurance might reasonably be relied upon.
  3. The individual must suffer substantial detriment in consequence of that reliance.

The representation must relate to specific property. The degree of certainty required of the promise depends on the circumstances. As long as the individual concerned knew what was intended the Court can infer or imply the representation from direct facts and/or conduct of the parties in support.

Detriment or alteration of position must be substantial. However, it need not be quantified in monetary terms. It is measured at the point when the promisor seeks to resile from that which was agreed.

Claims Based On A Promise

There must be a link between the promise and the detrimental conduct. However it need not be the only reason for the conduct, so long as it is a reason.

Once a Court is satisfied that an assurance has been given and detriment sustained, there is an evidential presumption that the latter was induced by the former. This can be problematic where the person receiving the promise would have carried out the work in any event e.g. where a child looks after his/her parent.

The question is not whether the individual would have acted in the same way if the promise had never been given but whether he would not have done so, if the promise, once made had been withdrawn. It is important to show that they would have acted differently.

The maximum relief is to uphold the promise itself. However, the Court is not obliged to do so. It can consider proportionality between the promise made, the detriment suffered and the value of countervailing benefits received.

Talk to Tollers

Claims based on a promise can be complex, you should consider seeking professional legal advice, Talk to Tollers. Our team are highly experienced in dealing with promissory and proprietary estoppel.

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Our Claims Based On A Promise Experts

Annabel Harding
Trainee Solicitor
Annabel graduated from the University of Sheffield in June 2019 with a LLB Law with Honours degree and joined Tollers in November 2019. She is the first trainee solicitor at Tollers to undertake the Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship Programme, and alongside her training with the Firm, Annabel is also studying towards the Solicitors Qualifying Exams.
Kerry Green
Kerry joined Tollers in April 2023 as a Paralegal working in the Corby Contentious Trust and Probate Department.
Tiffany Benson
Tiffany is a Partner and Head of Contentious Trusts and Probate at the Firm...
Annabel Harding
Trainee Solicitor
Kerry Green
Tiffany Benson
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