Promissory estoppel and revoking a promise of a post-death gift

5 May, 2017

After someone dies, a relative or friend may expect to benefit under their Will. If that person is excluded, a Will dispute can often follow.

One means of challenging a disputed Will is known as “Promissory Estoppel”. This occurs when:

– a person (A) makes a promise – for example, that they will leave a gift in their Will – to another person (B);

– (B) relies on that promise to their detriment; and

– (A) subsequently goes back on their promise.

Scenarios that we often encounter include where a friend or relative promises to leave property or money in return for:

  • Working in their business, for example a family farm;
  • Providing physical care;
  • Sacrificing some part of their life, such as a job, to support or assistance.

If the existence of the promise and reliance on that promise can be proved, the Court has the power to make an award. In determining any award the court will consider a number of factors including the proportionality of the promise and, even if a claim is successful, they may only award an amount sufficient to place the claimant back in the position they would have been in had the promise not been made.  This may be less than the full value of the promise.

If you think you may have a claim against an estate on the grounds of promissory estoppel please contact Philip Youdan at



For further information about Will disputes and disputes involving trusts and estates please click here to view our Guide to Will Trust and Estate Disputes.. We can also discuss the possible options for funding your claim and may, in appropriate cases, be able to offer a “no win, no fee” arrangement or a fixed fee.