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Formalities – Perfect/Imperfect Trust


The question in this case refers to the creation of a trust, i.e. the formalities that are required. In the case of Serena, she has created a trust that holds the property in trust for Alice for life and then the remainder goes to Alice’s children. On the death of Serena, there is a valid will where Alice gets all of the property and there is no interest for Alice’s children. Therefore, the following advice is going to identify a trust is in place, which will ensure that the property transfers to the children.

The Creation of a trust

The case of Milroy v Lord identifies a perfect trust, which includes; 1) a deed of the trust; and 2) transfer of the property following all formalities . Therefore, in the case of the trust created by Serena, both the property “Hillside” and the Jane Austin books have the capability of being part of a perfect trust. However, in the case of the land there are additional formalities, which will be discussed later. At this point there is a perfect trust that related to the books, because this is a case of a perfect trust, because there is both declaration and transfer of the books to the trustees . The share certificate and cheque are not in the deed documents, but have been transferred to the trustee with the declaration “to be added to the trust”. This is not a full deed, but applying the case of Milroy v Lord it is a declaration plus transfer of the property, which means that it has a capability of being a trust under Neville v Wilson and Vandervell v IRC . The argument still remains on whether the formalities have been fulfilled in the case of the land, shares and cheque which can be a contentious subject.

The need for formalities?

The case of Neville v Wilson held that the formalities of a trust need not be in writing if it can be shown that intention is present; however, problems have arisen in showing this intention, which is why the Statute of Fraud 1677 introduced the need formalities A similar argument that there is no need for formalities was expressed in the case of Walsh v Lonsdale in 1882; however as it can be seen in 1925 the formalities were required for all property under a trust. However, it seems to be that the argument for these formalities is that they clarify the intention of the settlor.

S. 53(1)(c) of the Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA 1925) is now the defining piece of legislation for where trust formalities can be identified. In the case of Timpson’s Executers v Yerbury it was held that the formalities of a trust can be identified in the written disposition of the trust and the transferring of the property to the trustees. The interest in respect to Uncle Joe’s Trust is an equitable interest; therefore should comply with s. 53(1)(c). As this trust is in the original deed then it complies with the formalities of 53(1)(c) an like the Jane Austen’s novels form a perfect trust, as the deed identifies both the intention and the transfer of the “equitable interest” to the new trust. The shares are another example of an equitable interest; however as will be discussed later may not form a perfect trust due to deficiencies in formalities.

In the case of Alice some of the property has been adequately transferred through deed and transfer to the trustees; however there remain questions if the whole trust can be properly administered. If one considers the case of Neville v Wilson the indication is that the requisite intention is enough. However, the problem is that Neville v Wilson is in direct contradiction with s. 53(1)(c) of the LPA 1925, which states that “a disposition of an equitable interest… subsisting at the time of the disposition, must be in writing signed by the person disposing of the same, or by his agent thereunto lawfully authorised in writing or by his will”.
This would mean, the prima facie facts of the case, are that all of the property would have to be in the initial trust deed in order for it to be transferred on trust to Alice; whereby anything outside of it would return to the estate. However, it is not as simple as this. The case of Neville v Wilson needs to be reconciled and there are additional formalities required in respect to shares and land.

The Transfer of the Land:

In the case of the land s. 53(1)(b) states that a “declaration of trust respecting any land or interest therein must be manifested and proved by writing signed by the person who is able to declare such trust or by his will.” Therefore, the land must be transferred by deed to the trustees, which has been done in the case of Hillside; therefore it would indicate that as soon as the deeds to the property were transferred to the trustees the land has been moved into a trust. The exact route of transfer has been identified in the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 s. 2, which identifies that the deed needs to be properly signed by each party in the transfer . This means that the trustees must have signed for the exchange and the deeds in this case. The implication of this is not clear as the deed document has been transferred to the trustees, but the question is whether this deed shows the trustees as the legal owners, if not then the formalities have not been fulfilled and the property has not passed, as per the case of Firstpost Homes v Johnson .

The Shares:

In the case of the shares, as an equitable interest, s, 53(1)(c) should be followed, which means that the shares should be deeded and in writing, as well as entered into the company books as registration of change . In the case of shares the formalities are important, because like land there are external legal formalities that must be complied with. Therefore, if the settlor had not begun the steps to transfer the shares, with the company, then regardless of whether there was an intention and the share certificates were placed in the hands of the trustees the constitution had not been fulfilled . This was the approach that has been taken in Grey v IRC and Oughtred v. IRC ; however Vandervell held that if the deeds and the shares had been transferred to the trustee then it will be implied that the trust is perfect. A similar approach was taken in Re Rose and Hunter v Moss where transferring the correct information to the company was enough, as it was in the hands of a third party.
The problem in this case is that there is no formal deed, even though the shares have been transferred. This means that the trust is not properly constituted in respect to the shares and would go back to the estate.

The Cheque

As this is a chattel the case of Neville v Wilson will apply, because the requirements of Milroy v Lord have been fulfilled and a perfect trust will be implied.

Duty of the Trustee and Remedies:


The case of Alan relates to the duty of a trustee, a breach of trust and the equitable remedies that are available. Alan is a director of a company that holds a trust for the holidays that it sells on behalf of Go Ltd, which is separated from Buyit Now’s accounts. The question that is raised is whether the actions of Alan, by; 1) failing to put the money into BuyIt now are accounts; and 2) taking money out of Go Ltd’s account to purchase a gift for his girlfriend, are a breach of trust. Then it will consider if it is a breach of trust what remedies are available to reclaim the lost money. The first part of this question will identify the duty of the trustee and the implications for the other directors of Buyit Now. Then it will consider what remedies are available to Go Ltd to retrieve the lost money.

Duty of the Trustees:

The administration of a trust is set out by the Trustees Act 2000 (TA 2000). Section 1 of the act defines the duty of case requirements that the trustee must adhere to, which is to “exercise such skill and care as reasonable in all circumstances”. The implication of this is that there is a minimum test for the private trustees as a reasonable trustee . However, s. 1 TA 2000 put the decision of Speight v Gaunt into statutes, highlighting that this is a higher duty of case for any trustee with “special knowledge or experience” should take “all those precautions which an ordinary prudent man of business would take in managing similar affairs of his own” . This means that in the case of Alan and the directors of the company they owe a standard of care of a company director . It is also important as this trust has been set up in the course of the company’s business that s. 1(b) of the TA 2000 will apply, which means that the level of the duty of care will be that which is “reasonable to expect of a person acting in the course of that kind of business” . It is important to note that the Nestle Case identified that a trustee cannot be held in breach of trust for a mere error of judgement.
It must also be identified that as this is a company/industry arrangement there may be an exclusion clause in place that limits liability. This is a perfectly valid approach and upheld in the case of Armitage v Nurse , which states “[n]o trustees shall be liable for any loss of damage which may happen to a trust fund… at any time from any cause whatsoever unless such loss shall be caused by his own fraud”. However, in the case of Alan there is more than a mere error of judgement and it is highly likely that his acts would be classed as:

1) Wilful deceit, in regards to the monies that were never transferred; and
2) Recklessness in regards to the monies that were taken from Go Ltd to pay for a yacht for his girlfriend
This was confirmed in the case of Re City Equitable Fire Insurance Co as “either a consciousness of negligence or breach of duty, or a recklessness in the performance of a duty” . Therefore, the acts of Alan could not be limited by an exclusion clause.


There is a problem with this case, which is that the company is the trustee and each of its directors are to act personally . To follow on from this each of the trustees, as BuyIt will be a corporation trust for Go Ltd, as it is an industry association it must be assumed that BuyIT has capability in its Articles of Association. This means that one trustee (Director) cannot be liable for the actions of another unless they facilitated, by act or omission, the breach . This means that the company cannot be held in breach, only Alan unless it can be shown that the other trustees were put on notice . However, the indication is that this is not the case. This raises a problem in regards to receiving the monies from the administrators of BuyIt, because as BuyIt as a whole was not in breach there is no claim against the company. As the company acts as a trustee the dishonesty of Alan cannot be imputed to the other director’s in the company. This means that there is only a personal breach of Alan in the trust.

Rather, it must be against Alan personally for breach of trust. Alan is personally wealth then it may be the case that if all of the losses can be reclaimed in an action for personal breach of trust . However, as his wealth has depleted it may be that not all the monies can be recovered this way. Therefore, the remedy of tracing is available, as per Re Diplock . The case of Foskett v McKeown identified that tracing is not a remedy, but a process to identify the lost property. In the case of Go’s lost money the money transferred to buy the yacht is easy to trace , but as the yacht is destroyed then it is of no worth. This means that it may be the case that personal action against Alan is the only available option. However, according to Re Diplock it will be able to trace the money from Alan’s girlfriend as she benefited from the act, as well as she may have known of the act. If Fiona does know then she is as liable as Alan . It is possible that she did not know of the act; however as she received the gift and it can be traced back to Fiona. It is possible that an innocent third party can be approached to claim the lost funds, but it may only be limited to estates . Even so the case of Butler v Broadland and Re J Leslie Engineers Co Ltd have indicated this act may be extended to other fiduciary relationships, which there are indications that in the case of insolvency there would be strong case. This is because the money to claim from the trustee that has breached the trust, just like in the case of a deceased settlor, is no longer available. In this case it would be fair to pursue the innocent third party.

In the case of the monies it is mixed with that Buy It’s, which means that it may not be possible to trace as a mixed, as opposed to an unmixed account . However, it is identified that if mixed or not it must continue to exist unless it has been used to pay a debt or completely depleted . Therefore, as the company is bankrupt it is more than likely that the funds are now untraceable from BuyIt, which means that personal action is only available.


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1) Clemants and Abbass (2008) Complete Equity and Trusts: Texts Cases and Materials, OUP
2) Edwards & N. Stockwell (2002) Trusts and Equity, Longman
3) Edwards & N. Stockwell (2010) Equity and Trusts 9th Edition, Longman
4) Hayton & Mitchell (2005) Commentary and Cases on the Law of Trusts and Equitable Remedies 12th Edition, Sweet & Maxwell
5) Hudson, A (2009) Equity and Trusts 4th Ed, Routledge Cavendish
6) Burn and Virgo (2002) Maudsley & Burns Trust and Trustee, Case & Materials, 7th Ed, OUP
7) Law commission (1999) 7th Programme of reform No 259
8) Law Commission in Trustees’ Powers and Duties (Law Com, 1999, Report No. 260)
9) Moffat, G, Bean, Dewar (2005) Trusts Law: Texts and Materials 4th Ed. CUP
10) Pearce, Stevens & Barr (2010) The Law of Trusts and Equitable Obligations5th edition, OUP
11) Watt, G (2010) Equity and Trusts Directions 2nd Ed, OUP
12) Watt, G (2010) Equity and Trusts 4th Ed, OUP


1) Milroy v Lord (1862) 4 De GF & J 264
2) Neville v Wilson [1997] Ch 144; 14-15;
3) Vandervell v IRC [1967] 2 AC 291
4) Walsh v Lonsdale [1882] 21 Ch D 14
5) Timpson’s Executers v Yerbury [1936] 1 KB 645
6) Firstpost Homes v Johnson [1995] 4 All ER 355
7) Grey v IRC [1960] AC 1
8) Grey v Oughtred [1960] AC 206
9) Re Rose [1952] 1 All ER 1217
10) Hunter v Moss [1994] 3 All ER 215
11) Speight v Gaunt (1883) 9 App Cas 1
12) Walker v Stones [2001] 2 WLR 623
13) Nestle v National Westminster Bank [2000] WTLR 795; cf
14) Armitage v Nurse (1998) Ch 241
15) Re City Equitable Fire Insurance Co [1925] Ch 40
16) Royal Brunei Airlines v Tan (1995 2 AC 378)
17) Brinks Ltd v Abu-Saleh (1995) WLR 1478
18) Styles v Guy (1849) 19 LT Ch 185
19) Target Holdings v Redfern [1995] UKHL 10; Jackson v Dickinson (1903) 1 Ch. 952
20) Re Diplock [1948] Ch. 465
21) Foskett v McKeown [2000] 3 All ER 97
22) Taylor v Plumer (1815) 3 M & S 562
23) Ministry of Health v Simpson [1951] AC 251
24) Banque Belge pour l’Etranger v Hambrouk [1921] 1 KB 321
25) Agip(Africa) v Jackson [1992] 4 All ER 385
26) Lipkin Gorman v Karpnale [1992] 4 All ER 512

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