Mabel wanted me to visit her at the farm so I drove through the village past the Old Farmyard and turned left by the cottage. The farm track was unmade and I proceeded slowly only to find the way blocked by a tri-coloured collie tearing at the flesh of a flattened rabbit. It made no attempt to get out of my way even after a gentle toot on the horn so eventually I mounted the grass verge and squeezed the car through the entrance to Hope Farm.
“Tea?” Mabel asked. “Coffee please,” I replied. Mabel passed me some Yorkshire parkin whilst attending to the brew but as I took a piece I saw it was freckled with a green mould. I quickly slipped it into my pocket.
I am not sure to this day what happened to the coffee. I think my choice confused her and Mabel put both tea leaves and ground coffee into a cafetiere. Whatever the recipe the result was disagreeable and at an opportune moment I watered the rubber plant. I hope it survived.
The frivolity of my mood soon changed however when Mabel gave me instructions for her Will.
“My eldest daughter has muscular dystrophy,” she said. “I want to leave her the cottage at the end of the lane and the two acre field behind it. She’s confined to a wheelchair but keeps a few chickens and she likes her vegetable garden.”
“My youngest daughter,” she continued, “is a chronic cannabis user – part of the Edinburgh drug scene. We’ve tried everything but to no avail. She’s delusional you see.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, rather inadequately.
“Thank you,” said Mabel. “The drugs have destroyed her character but I’m still hopeful that the character of the child will one day win through. I want her to have the income from the Old Farmyard for life. It’s used as a livery stable. The income’s modest but it’ll feed her and I couldn’t bear to see her hard up in her old age.”
“Right,” I said, again rather inadequately.
“That leaves my son Joe. He had a nervous breakdown as a young man and suffers from a mental illness. He does a little work for a charity and he is OK as long as he takes the medication but he’s not up to running the farm. I want him to have an income from the farm for the rest of his life. On Joe’s death, I want the farm to pass to Barney, my Grandson. He’s studying agriculture at college”.
I looked at Mabel with admiration. She may have had poor eyesight but she had great insight, I thought.
“You’ve done well to carry on,” I said, “keeping the farm going.”
“Always give life a chance,” she replied. “It has a way of sorting things out.”
I left the farmhouse pondering her role as steward. She had done her best and was now passing the farm on to the person best placed to look after it.
The smooth collie was still chewing. I offered it the parkin but it took a sniff and with a look of distain returned to its rabbit. This was no pampered pooch but a streetwise independent sheepdog I thought. It was part of the landscape and probably had more right to be there than I did.
I manoeuvred the car carefully and headed for the office with a mental note to say to clients:-
“By all means come and talk about your Will but first let’s talk about life.”
William Kinread is a partner at Raworths LLP and a solicitor specialising in agriculture, wills, trusts and probate. To contact Raworths telephone 01423 566666 or visit our offices at Eton House, 89 Station Parade, Harrogate, HG1 1HF. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.