Sean Preson, pictured, is in a legal battle with his mom and dad
A man is suing his own parents in a battle over their £2.3m family farm. Sean Preson, 56, says he had a “good relationship” with his mom and her dad before he decided to buy a farm with them in a deal struck over a bar lunch in 2002.
Preson claims his father threatened to throw out his wife Janina (pictured)
Preson says he and his wife, Janina, agreed with their parents, Ivan and Wendy Preson, to go halfway to a farm after an argument at one of their favorite Leicestershire venues.
But the relationship between Preson and his parents slowly deteriorated after they moved into houses at Springfield Farm in Huncoate, Leicestershire, in 2003.
Preson claims that in 2008, while he was away from home, his father threatened to throw 55-year-old Janina and her two children out and “make them homeless”.
But the father, Ivan, 85, accuses his son and daughter-in-law of being “horrible” to him and his wife, saying: “We wanted to get away from Sean and his family.”
The couples are now involved in a High Court legal battle over who is the rightful owner of the farm.
Preson and his wife argue that they put up half the purchase price, but kept a paper share worth just 28 per cent of the total £2.3m value.
The court heard during the trial this week that when the couples bought the farm in 2003 they each put up £300,000 to cover the asking price of £525,000 and renovation costs.
It was agreed that Mr Preson and his wife would get a derelict barn, which was renovated into their current £520,000 home. His parents would get the cottage, which was also converted and is now worth £740,000.
The family is arguing over which couple owns which part of the rest of the farm.
On paper, Mr Preson’s parents own an area of land of £923,000 on which he built and paid for a stable and horse training facility. He and Janina also own three fields valued at £136,000.
Mr Preson and his wife claim their position on paper does not reflect the true agreement as discussed at the Sunday lunch meeting at The Nag’s Head in nearby Stapleton.
They claim that each couple put up £300,000 to buy the farm and agreed to share the land equally.
On paper, the property ended up in favor of Mr Preson’s parents simply because the farmland was divided into parts to avoid higher stamp duty rates.
The couples are now asking Judge Robin Vos to rule that all the land should be pooled and divided equally, increasing the value of Mr Preson and his wife’s share to over £500,000 and bringing their total interest in the estate to more than £1 million.
Preson told Judge Vos at the time of the purchase that he was 35 years old, had been married for 14 years, and had a son and daughter ages 14 and 10.
He said: “I had a very good relationship with my mother and father. They were self-made people. I used to talk to them a lot about business.”
Preson added: “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 estate was a joint purchase between the two families. They each contributed £300,000 at the end of 2002. We bought the place together as my father had been very ill and in hospital.
“I backed out of a deal to buy a farm by myself when my father got seriously ill so I could be there for them in their later lives.”
Solicitor Stuart Benzie, representing Mr Preson, told Judge Vos: “In 2008, it was discovered that the barn was not registered to Sean and Janina. The barn was and is their family’s home and this discovery caused great concern.”
“The issue came to light when Ivan attended the barn when Sean was not present and told Janina that the barn was not registered to his name and 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 homes. In this action, the only thing they are looking for is the fair allocation of the land they agreed to.
“It was always intended that each couple benefit equally from their respective contributions. Both parties wanted them to contribute 50 percent and receive 50 percent, except for housing.
“Sean and Janina rely on building the stables and furnishings to support their performances.”
Benzie added: “There is no question that Ivan and Wendy have become rich and that enrichment was at the expense of Sean and Janina… The enrichment was unfair.
“This is an unfortunate claim: all claims of this nature are unfortunate, and the dispute has emanated from a break in the relationship between a family.
“The court must do justice…to ensure that the parties do not gain unfairly by abusing their strict legal rights.”
But Ivan told the judge that the position on the paper reflects the true nature of the agreement reached at The Nag’s Head.
He and his wife are backed in their position by Sean’s brother Dean and sister Suzanne Cooke.
Ivan and his wife put their share of the land into a trust several years ago, to be retained in equal parts for the benefit of their three children after their death.
Mr. Benzie told Ivan that he had fallen out with his son when Mr. Preson had claimed the right to half the land.
But he denied it, arguing that not once over the years had his son claimed he had a 50 percent stake.
He admitted that he offered to sell everything in 2012 and give his son and daughter-in-law half of the proceeds, but told Judge Vos that was because he wanted to get away from them by then.
Ivan, 85, said he and his wife Wendy, 83, had been “upset” at different times by “their outbursts” and accused their son and daughter-in-law of being “horrible” to them.
He told the judge: “Sometimes they weren’t very nice to us. That was the kind of thing we’ve been living with all these years.”
She added: “Sean and his family were making our lives more and more uncomfortable. We wanted to get away from Sean and his family.”
Nicholas George, representing the parents, told the judge: “Ivan and Wendy deny that the plaintiffs’ version of the settlement is correct, saying that it was in fact agreed that each couple would contribute an equal sum, £300,000, towards cover the cost.” purchase and development of their respective acquisitions, each couple would be the sole owner of their respective homes: the barn in the case of the plaintiffs and the farm in the case of Ivan and Wendy.
“Plaintiffs would be sole owners of all three fields, and Ivan and Wendy would be sole owners of the disputed land.
“It is common ground between the plaintiffs and Ivan and Wendy that their agreement, whatever the rival version, was never reduced to writing, either by them or by anyone else on their behalf, and was purely oral.”
He added: “Determining the true terms of the 2002-03 agreement becomes very much a dispute between father and son, with the court having to decide who is to be believed – credibility is therefore paramount. importance”.
The trial continues.