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Kingsley v. Kingsley [2019] EWHC 1073 (Ch)

Catherine Taskis appeared for the successful defendants in a High Court dispute arising out of the termination of a farming partnership on the death of one of two sibling partners.  The partnership had for nearly 40 years operated from the family farm, some 280 acres which had been passed down through the generations and which was jointly owned by brother and sister when the death of the brother determined the partnership.  His interest passed to his widow, who claimed an order for the sale of the farm on the open market.  This was resisted by the defendant (the sister of the deceased) as co-owner, who wished to continue the farming business and who sought an opportunity to acquire her brother’s interest in the farm, at a specified value, prior to any sale on the open market.

Giving judgment on 1 May, the court accepted that it had jurisdiction to make such an order; and exercised its discretion in favour of the defendant to grant her a period of two months to complete the purchase of the farm at a price determined by the court.

It was a key factor in the exercise of this discretion that the court was able, with the benefit of expert valuation evidence, to determine the price for the farm with sufficient certainty to reduce the risk of the claimant not receiving proper value for her interest.  Acknowledging that only a sale on the open market would provide the definitive test of what the farm was actually worth, the court accepted the defendants’ case that it was not constrained, as a trustee would be, to obtain the best price for the property, provided that it was satisfied that the risk that full value would not be obtained was sufficiently low.

Other factors relevant to the exercise of the court’s discretion included the purpose of the trust, which the court found was to enable the farm land to be farmed by members of the Kingsley family; and the fact that the interest of the claimant in the farm was now purely financial.

The court also heard and determined various issues arising from the cessation accounts prepared by the defendants following the dissolution of the partnership.  In particular, the court held that the occupation of the farm land since dissolution had been that of the partnership, for the purpose of winding up, rather than of the defendants personally; and that accordingly the occupation rent which the partnership had been ordered to pay in respect of this occupation was properly payable to both co-owners, rather than (as the claimant had contended) to the claimant alone.

Catherine was instructed by Pellys solicitors.  A copy of the judgment can be found here.


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