Son takes parents to High Court over who owns £2.3million family farm after striking deal at pub lunch

A son has taken his own parents to the High Court over who is the rightful owner of their £2.3 million family farm – which they planned to buy together over a pub lunch.

Sean Preson, 56, and his wife complain they put in half of the purchase price, but on paper they own only 28 percent of the total value.

The relationship between Mr Preson and his parents, Ivan and Wendy, slowly crumbled over the years after they began living next door to each other in 2003 in two houses on Springfield Farm, Huncoate, Leicestershire.

In a court case this week, the court heard that when the two couples bought the farm in 2003, each couple put in £300,000 to cover the £525,000 asking price and renovation costs.

It was agreed that Sean and his wife would be given a derelict barn, which they would renovate into their current £520,000 home, while his parents would be given the farmhouse, also now renovated and valued at £740,000.

However, the couples fight over who owns what part of the rest of the farm.

Sean Preson, 56, and his wife have taken his own parents to the High Court over who is the rightful owner of their £2.3 million family farm - which they bought together at a pub lunch

Sean Preson, 56, and his wife have taken his own parents to the High Court over who is the rightful owner of their £2.3 million family farm – which they bought together at a pub lunch

Ivan Preson told the High Court that not once over the years had his son claimed a 50 per cent stake in the family farm in Huncoate, Leicestershire.

Ivan Preson told the High Court that not once over the years had his son claimed a 50 per cent stake in the family farm in Huncoate, Leicestershire.

Ivan Preson told the High Court that not once over the years had his son claimed a 50 per cent stake in the family farm in Huncoate, Leicestershire.

The businessman says he had a “good relationship” with his parents before deciding to buy a farm with them over Sunday dinner in 2002 so that he could live there and care for them in their old age.

Since the purchase, Mr Preson claims that in 2008 his father threatened to kick out and ‘make homeless’ his wife Janina, 55, and their two children while he was away.

But Mr Preson’s 85-year-old father accuses his son and daughter-in-law of being ‘terrible to us’, with Ivan ultimately claiming that: ‘We wanted to get away from Sean and his family.’

On paper, Sean’s parents own a £923,000 piece of land on which Sean has built and paid for a stable block and horse stable, while he and Janina own three fields worth £136,000.

But Sean and his wife have sued, claiming the newspaper’s position does not reflect the true agreement as first discussed at the Sunday lunch meeting at local watering hole The Nag’s Head, in nearby Stapleton.

They say each couple put in £300,000 to buy the farm and agreed to split the land equally.

The actual paper ownership eventually worked out in favor of his parents, simply because they split up the farmland to avoid higher stamp duty.

On paper, Sean's parents own a £923,000 piece of land on which Sean has built and paid for a stable block and horse stable, while he and Janina own three fields worth £136,000.

On paper, Sean's parents own a £923,000 piece of land on which Sean has built and paid for a stable block and horse stable, while he and Janina own three fields worth £136,000.

On paper, Sean’s parents own a £923,000 piece of land on which Sean has built and paid for a stable block and horse stable, while he and Janina own three fields worth £136,000.

Ivan and his wife, 83, are supported in their position by Sean's brother Dean and sister Suzanne Cooke (pictured)

Ivan and his wife, 83, are supported in their position by Sean's brother Dean and sister Suzanne Cooke (pictured)

Ivan and his wife, 83, are supported in their position by Sean’s brother Dean and sister Suzanne Cooke (pictured)

They are now asking Judge Robin Vos to rule that all the land should be pooled and divided equally, raising the value of Sean and Janina’s share to over £500,000 and their total interest in the farm to over £500,000. 1 million.

On the witness stand, Sean told the judge he was 35 at the time of purchase, had been married for 14 years, and had a son and daughter ages 14 and 10.

“I had a very good relationship with my mother and my father. They were self-made people. I talked to them a lot about business deals.

“I was close with my mother.

‘We never had any real problems until we bought the farm in 2003. Then things started to change.

‘The farm was a joint purchase of both families. Each contributed £300,000 at the end of 2002. We bought the house together because my father had been very ill and was in the hospital.

“I pulled out of a deal to buy a farm myself when my father became seriously ill so that I could be there for them later in life.”

He said they made the agreement with his parents to buy the farm together after enjoying a Sunday dinner together at Nag’s Head, in Stapleton.

The agreement to buy the farm with his parents came about after enjoying a Sunday dinner together at Nag's Head, in Stapleton.

The agreement to buy the farm with his parents came about after enjoying a Sunday dinner together at Nag's Head, in Stapleton.

The agreement to buy the farm with his parents came about after enjoying a Sunday dinner together at Nag’s Head, in Stapleton.

“We used to take them out to dinner on Sundays. It was on the way back that we first stopped at Springfield Farm and looked at it,” he told the judge.

Sean’s lawyer, Stuart Benzie, told the judge: ‘It was discovered in 2008 that the barn was not registered to Sean and Janina. The barn was and is their childhood home and this discovery caused great concern.

“The problem came to light when Ivan visited the barn when Sean wasn’t there and told Janina that the barn wasn’t in their name, and he threatened to make the family homeless.

Sean and Janina contributed 50 percent of the cost, with the intention of acquiring 50 percent of the land, excluding the housing. In this action, they seek only the fair allocation of the land they have agreed to.

“It was always intended that each couple would benefit equally from their respective contributions. It was the intention of both parties that they would contribute 50 percent and receive 50 percent, with the exception of the housing.

Sean and Janina rely on the construction of the stables and menage to support their entries.

“There is no question that Ivan and Wendy were enriched, and that enrichment was at the expense of Sean and Janina… The enrichment was unjust.

“This is an unfortunate claim: all claims of this nature are unfortunate, and the dispute arose from a rift in a family relationship.

“The court must do justice … to ensure that parties do not gain unfair advantage by abusing their strict legal rights.”

But Ivan told the judge that the newspaper’s position reflects the true nature of the pub deal.

Ivan and his wife placed their share of the land in a trust several years ago, to be held equally after their deaths for the benefit of their three children (photo: Sean's brother Dean - who supports his parents)

Ivan and his wife placed their share of the land in a trust several years ago, to be held equally after their deaths for the benefit of their three children (photo: Sean's brother Dean - who supports his parents)

Ivan and his wife placed their share of the land in a trust several years ago, to be held equally after their deaths for the benefit of their three children (photo: Sean’s brother Dean – who supports his parents)

He and his wife, 83, are supported in their position by Sean’s brother Dean and sister Suzanne Cooke, with Ivan and his wife putting their share of the land into a trust several years ago, to be held equally for the benefit of their three children after their death.

Mr. Benzie told Ivan that he had a fight with his son when Sean claimed the right to half of the land.

But when he testified, he denied it, saying his son had not once claimed over the years that he had a 50 percent interest in it.

He admitted that in 2012 he offered to sell and give Sean and Janina half of the proceeds, but told the judge it was because he wanted to leave them by then.

He said he and Wendy had been “upset” at various times by “their outbursts” and accused his son and daughter-in-law of being “terrible to us.”

“Sometimes they weren’t very nice to us,” he told the judge.

“That was the kind of thing we lived with all these years.”

He added, “Sean and his family made our lives more and more uncomfortable.

“We wanted to get away from Sean and his family.”

The parents’ lawyer, Nicholas George, told the judge: “Ivan and Wendy deny that the plaintiffs’ version of the agreement is correct, and they say that it was actually agreed that each couple would contribute an equal amount – £300,000. to the cost of purchasing and developing their respective purchases, each couple would own only their respective residences – the barn in the case of the plaintiffs and the farm in the case of Ivan and Wendy.

“The plaintiffs would own only the three fields, and Ivan and Wendy would own only the disputed land.

“The plaintiffs and Ivan and Wendy agree that their agreement, whichever of the two rival versions it was, was never reduced to writing, either by them or anyone else on their behalf, and was purely oral.

“Determining the true terms of the 2002-2003 agreement will largely be a competition between father and son, with the court having to decide whose word is to be believed – credibility is therefore paramount,” he concluded.

The process continues.

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