Case Study: Why you shouldn’t make handshake deals when it comes to the family farm

Case Study: Why you shouldn’t make handshake deals when it comes to the family farm


By Sebastian Hill  

Handshake deals between family members are a common precursor to many intergenerational farming disputes. As a disputed estates lawyer, I deal with the fall-out of handshake deals every day. Most notably, I was the instructing solicitor for one of South Australia’s largest intergenerational farming disputes in recent times, Roberts v Roberts [2021] SASC 72.  


The Facts

The dispute was between a father and son, whereby I acted for the applicant Mr Grant Roberts (Grant), the son of respondent Mr Jack Roberts (Jack). The dispute regarded an alleged oral contract between Grant and Jack, for the purchase of the family station, Pulgamurtie, for $2.6 million. Pulgamurtie is approximately the same size as Singapore and located outside of Broken Hill in remote New South Wales (NSW).

Over the years, and particularly in the four years Grant engaged me to work for him, Pulgamurtie increased significantly in value. By the time of trial, it was more than three times the value of the oral contract. Jack denied any agreement or discussion about the sale of Pulgamurtie to Grant for the originally agreed price of $2.6 million.

Grant had dedicated his life’s work to Pulgamurtie, always with the intention of one day owning the station. Our legal team argued that Grant had improved, maintained, and worked on Pulgamurtie, he also purchased plant and livestock. Grant acted to his detriment in reliance on Jack’s representations and encouragement that he would be the owner.


The Outcome

It was a privilege to act for Grant and direct a team of seven staff over four years through numerous applications, conferences, trial, and appeal court proceedings. My team was successful in arguing that Grant had established the elements of a cause of action in proprietary estoppel.

It was ordered that Grant be transferred title to Pulgamurtie for $3.8 million; based on the agreed purchase price adjusted for a change in value over nine and a half years since the first agreement. 


How to avoid handshake deals

The situation above arose from a simple handshake deal that was never properly dealt with. Handshake deals are usually a verbal promise in conversation that is never settled in a legal agreement and can be common among family members. If the promises aren’t kept, disputes can arise, and families end up in court.  In Grant’s case, his parents and his brother and sister all gave evidence at trial. 

The only way to avoid future disputes is to have an agreement prepared that expressly states everyone’s intentions. Now, that is much easier said than done. Often there is a very delicate balance of power between family members which should be carefully navigated to avoid raising any red flags.

Getting advice early is the number one way to avoid disputes, and your lawyer will be able to help you find ways to raise this in a sensible manner with your family members.

Sebastian Hill is the Managing Partner at Boylan Lawyers and specializes in disputed estates, intergenerational farm disputes and transfers, family law, and other practice areas. In 2022, Sebastian was named a finalist in the Partner of the Year Awards Wills and Estates category for his work on Roberts v Roberts.

Contact us today to organise a free 30-minute consultation with Sebastian Hill by calling 08 8632 2777 or email

Mandated Vaccinations – are they legal?

Mandated Vaccinations – are they legal?

Mandated Vaccinations – are they legal?

We have endured hearing and reading about the word ‘mandate’ over the past 18 months, but what the heck does it mean?

The word ‘mandate’ has been used when referring to workers in certain industries needing to be vaccinated in order to continue with their duties at work. Classic examples of a mandated workforce are healthcare and education.

‘On just terms’

Confusingly, a mandate in an Act, or an individual policy created by an employer, does not always mean that it is compulsory to comply with that Order or Direction.

Cast your mind back to the classic Australian movie, The Castle. In the end, the Kerrigans weren’t required to hand over their suburban home to Airlink, the company expanding the airport next to their home. This is because the High Court found that their home was not being acquired ‘on just terms’ by Airlink.

Similarly with mandates, they must also be ‘on just terms’.

So, what does that mean?

Well, the directive must be within the bounds of Australian and international law.

If the employee is discriminated against by the employer on the grounds that they are unable to be vaccinated due to a medical condition, then that may well violate Australian and international law.

There are also arguments surrounding religious reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated. However, so far, the courts have been unwilling to give much weight to that argument.

Employers are also in a tough position.

Employers have an obligation to ensure their workforce is safe, alongside their customers and clients, as per the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.

Indeed, employer groups have called on the government to mandate the vaccination requirements at work more broadly under legislation. This would alleviate the need for business owners to attempt creating policies, which cause a minefield.

Recently, to make matters more complex, it was found by the Fair Work Commission that there must be adequate consultation with respect to policies and vaccination. Employers must consult with employees and, if necessary, employment groups, before implementing a policy that directs its workforce to vaccinate.

In conclusion, mandates are legal to the extent that they must be ‘on just terms’. This means the mandate cannot violate other Australian or international laws, such as discrimination. Courts are now making decisions that guide what is and isn’t acceptable with respect to vaccination mandates (E.g., workplaces requiring consultation with employees).

If you require advice on this topic, please contact Boylan Lawyers on (08) 8632 2777.  


Advice from a family lawyer: 5 steps of divorce

Advice from a family lawyer: 5 steps of divorce

By Rianie Huggins, Associate Boylan Lawyers


A new year brings a fresh start for many. In the world of family law, this means I am approached by couples looking to divorce after the stresses of the Christmas season. Many couples stay together and ‘bunker-down’ through the Christmas period, often for their children. However, when the new year arrives, they decide they can’t go on. 

Deciding to divorce is a tough decision, but also a decision that takes bravery to believe you are making the right choices for your future. As a family lawyer it is my job to support couples through the next steps. Here are five steps typically involved in the divorce process. 

1. Get advice: First and foremost, it is important you receive quality advice from a family lawyer. They will help you create a plan that is specific to your personal needs and situation. Your lawyer may also direct you to speak with an accountant or financial planner.  

2. Property settlement: Find out what assets, debts and financial resources are up for negotiation regardless of who brought them into the relationship. Your lawyer will likely organise valuations and reports required to settle your property or distribute assets.  

3. Parenting Arrangements: Work with your family lawyer how much time each parent receives with the children.  

4. Wills and estate planning: Divorce automatically revokes a will. Before you settle, make sure you protect your assets, and your future wishes with a fresh will and estate planning. Not updating your will as a divorced person can lead to disputed estates in the future.   

5. Conveyancing and asset transfer: If you decide to sell the assets you own or purchase new assets, you will need help from a conveyancer that can guide you through the process.  

The success of negotiations will determine whether you and your ex settle or go to court. The court process is extensive and can be time consuming. Once negotiations or court matters are settled, you can organise conveyancing of the matrimonial home and other assets. You can also settle payments for financial distributions. Once this is complete, the process is now over, and you can take a breath.  

The above process is stressful, which is why it’s important to have the right team behind you. Boylan Lawyers can support you through every step of your separation plan. Our family law team has a combined 86 years’ experience. Get a free 30-minute consultation by calling (08) 8632 2777 or email 


Rianie Huggins, Associate Boylan Lawyers

Rianie Huggins is an Associate at Boylan Lawyers who specialises in family law, estate planning, probate, trusts and more. Rianie has extensive international and local experience in law. She loves being part of the Strathalbyn community and enjoys seeing the unique offerings from talented Artisans throughout the Adelaide Hills and surrounds.