FARMERS are being urged to ensure their ownership and succession planning is up to date so they can protect their property in the event of divorce.
Solicitor Victoria Moreton, a partner with County Durham solicitors Tilly Bailey & Irvine, said it is essential that farmers’ intentions for their properties is legally documented.
She also said that should they marry or cohabit, formal plans should be put in place to cover the assets if the relationship ends.
Ms Moreton said: “For many years, farm assets have been handed down through the family, with these arrangements based on trust.
“To document such agreements requires a change in mentality, but it is now important to ensure the desired future.
“We’re now seeing family assets being subject to litigation, potentially putting the business at risk, or resulting in a very high cash payout to the former spouse.
“It is vital that farmers ensure there is legal documentation which clearly states whether the property is a benefit for the person’s lifetime or an outright gift. It is also essential when marrying or cohabiting that consideration is given to what should happen should the couple split.”
She said a number of factors have led to farmers facing increased payouts in the divorce courts.
The continued rise in the value of agricultural land, with some land now valued at more than £7,000 an acre, means that even modest-sized farms are now often valued at several million pounds.
Courts will also take into consideration that although the farmhouse may be a family heirloom, it is also often the matrimonial home.