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Gillett v Holt [2001]


  • Gillett left school without attending farming college to work on Holt’s farm for over 40 years, during which time Holt made several assurances that Gillett would inherit the farm upon Holt’s death
  • Gillett and Holt’s close relationship broke down, leading Holt to change his will


  • Could Holt be estopped from denying Gillett’s rights to the farm?


  • Yes


  • Detriment and reliance in proprietary estoppel are intertwined, although there is a fundamental requirement of unconscionability
  • There had clearly been a representation intended to be relied upon
  • Gillett’s detriment was clear – he left school early (development deprivation), had been denied the opportunity to better himself and had acted as a surrogate family to Holt
  • Gillett was awarded both financial compensation and one of Holt’s houses
  • Making a will, by itself, will not generate proprietary estoppel – there must be other factors too (not an issue here)
  • Opinion: this case undermines the concept that an inheritance based estoppel equity only attches on death – Holt was still alive at the time of the claim
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