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Declaration that farm held upon trust for father as life tenant and for son in remainder

Property – Equitable estoppel –
Declaration that farm held upon trust for father as life tenant and for son in remainder

In Hampton & Farley and Ors [2013] FamCA 213 (5 April 2013) counsel for the parties’ son submitted that the de facto husband and wife should be estopped from denying that he had been encouraged to believe that the de facto husband’s interest in a farm would “one day” be his and had relied upon that promise in circumstances where the evidence established that it would be unconscionable to allow the de facto husband or wife to depart from that assumption. The son relied on the principles of promissory or proprietary estoppel (para 86).

The case contains a discussion by Coleman J of the doctrine of equitable estoppel at paras 86-103 and the principles governing claims based on quantum meruit at para 105. Coleman J did make a declaration that the father, son and a company held the fee simple in the farm upon trust for the father (de facto husband) as life tenant and for the son in remainder. Coleman J said at para 104:

“Having regard to the Court’s conclusions with respect to the property of the husband and the wife, and the wife’s entitlement to an alteration of interest in such property … preservation of the equitable interests declared in favour of the son does not have the potential to defeat or otherwise impair or impede the wife’s capacity to recover such entitlement.”

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