Court upholds ruling that man is entitled to farm of biological father

William Naylor only found out the man whose land he worked was his father after his death

William Naylor of Roscrea, Co Tipperary and his sister Jean Maher of Birr, Co Offally outside the court. Photographs: Collins Courts

William Naylor of Roscrea, Co Tipperary and his sister Jean Maher of Birr, Co Offally outside the court. Photographs: Collins Courts

 

A man is entitled to a 49-hectare (120-acre) farm of a deceased man who turned out to be his biological father, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

William Naylor only learned after the death of Michael Hoare in 2007 that Mr Hoare, on whose farm in Co Tipperary he lived and worked for more than 30 years, was his father.

The three-judge Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court that Mr Naylor was entitled to the land but set aside an additional finding he should also receive a bequest of €150,000 left to him by Mr Hoare, who died in 2007 at the age of 82.

In a 21-day case before the High Court in 2012, Mr Naylor sued his sister Jean Maher, the executrix of Mr Hoare’s estate, seeking to set aside a will executed in 2006.

Ms Maher, The Crescent, Townsend Street, Birr, Co Offaly, opposed the claim.

In the 2006 will, Mr Hoare left Mr Naylor €150,000 and left Ms Maher, who cared for Mr Hoare in his later years, the farm at Derrylahan, Roscrea.

The 2006 will replaced one made a year earlier in which Mr Hoare left the land to Mr Naylor.

Mr Naylor, aged in his sixties, claimed he was promised the farm by Mr Hoare.

The court heard Mr Hoare married Mr Naylor’s mother in the 1980s and Mr Naylor had always believed that another man, his mother’s first husband, was his father.

In his 2012 High Court judgment, Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe ruled Mr Naylor of Lelagh, Rathcabbin, Derrylahan, Roscrea, was entitled to the lands, the €150,000 and all his legal costs.

Mr Naylor was entitled to the land as he worked the farm for “minimal remuneration” and Mr Hoare had promised him many times he would leave him the property, he found.

He accepted Mr Naylor’s evidence he returned from Dublin in the early 1970s to work the farm “at the expressed wishes” of Mr Hoare and also accepted evidence of other witnesses that Mr Hoare promised him the land.

The judge dismissed other claims by Mr Naylor the 2006 will was procured by duress and undue influence by Ms Maher.

Erred

In her appeal, Ms Maher argued the High Court erred in deciding her brother’s claim should be satisfied by the transfer of lands to him and said it should instead have ordered he get sufficient monies to meet his loss when he moved back from Dublin to work on the farm. Evidence was given €163,000 represented his loss.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal, comprising its president Mr Justice Seán Ryan, Mr Justice Michael Peart and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan unanimously held Mr Naylor was entitled to the land based on the promises made to him but disagreed he was also entitled to the €150,000.

Mr Justice Peart, giving the judgment, said that sum was intended as substitution for the lands. To do justice between the parties in the “unusual circumstances”, the court directed Mr Naylor should receive the lands once he executes a disclaimer to the €150,000.

Mr Naylor was entitled to 75 per cent, not all, of his legal costs, because he was not successful in all arguments he had raised, he also ruled.