Dear Editor,

I promised to pen a few points about family farm inheritance from a very personal and ill informed perspective, and below are some anecdotes on the subject.

“I’m not very popular with some of my family, but you don’t keep estates by splitting them”, so said the recently departed Sir William Gladstone as we drove round the well acred Hawarden Estate, Flintshire a few years ago. He made an obvious but difficult point that one heir is better than many if estates are to remain intact. How can we be fair when the next generation inherit? If division is equal then land sales and splits are inevitable. Does that matter? We are but custodians of the land; we do our best for the time provided and once gone, others have their turn.

Human nature sees the inheritance of possessions as important. Some governments see taxes accrued as essential. (Strangely, New Zealand has no capital gains or inheritance tax; they see administration costs outweighing benefits). Here in the UK, we see crippling taxes even to the extent of probate being denied until duties have been paid. This can lead to the ludicrous situation of recipients needing to borrow money to pay the tax before their rightful money is received. A scandalous state of affairs.