Some Day this will all be Yours Brenda!
Gareth Jones explains that property owners need to be cautious when making potentially ‘throw away’ remarks like the one above, directed towards the entirely fictitious ‘Brenda’.
- An Intention to Transfer or Agreement
- Proprietary Estoppel: An Assurance
- Proprietary Estoppel: Reliance and Detriment
- Proprietary Estoppel: The Award
- How Ridley & Hall Can Help
An Intention to Transfer Property or an Agreement
When making a comment such as “Some Day this will all be yours”, a property owner may have every intention of transferring their property to Brenda. The owner could transfer it in life, set up a Trust or gift the property in their Will on death.
But what if the transfer does not materialise and the owner never actually had the intention of transferring the property.
Well, it is possible that a court may find that a Trust had been created, in which Brenda had an interest. But assuming there was no actual agreement between the owner and Brenda, Brenda, to stand any chance, would likely need to show she had made a contribution toward the deposit or mortgage.
So, what if there was no intention to transfer the property, no agreement to transfer it and no contribution toward the deposit or mortgage:
Well, there is still hope for Brenda! The doctrine of proprietary estoppel could potentially convert the above throwaway comment into a financial interest for her.
There needs to be some form of assurance given. The phrase “Someday this will all be yours” could amount to such an assurance. The question is whether the owner’s acts and/or words would have suggested to her that she was to have a financial interest in the property. But Brenda must be able to prove it. It is difficult when it is one person’s word against the other; in Gladstone -v- White and others  EWHC 329 (Ch), Ms. White claimed that her friend Mr. Gladstone had promised her that she would inherit his £15 million stately home after Mr. Gladstone and his wife died. She had moved in, and she claimed that she had been treated as a “surrogate daughter.” Nothing had been committed to paper though, and the court could not find enough evidence of the verbal assurance.
But it should be noted that an owner simply standing by while the other person continually lays out money on or in connection with the property could amount to an assurance.
Proprietary Estoppel: Reliance to Your Detriment
Whether the phrase “Someday this will all be yours” can be relied upon by Brenda in showing she has a financial interest in the property really depends on what she does after the comment is made. If Brenda is the child of the owner, the land in question is farmland, and she works for years on the owner’s farm, sacrificing a potentially more highly paid career elsewhere based on the assurance made, then she will argue she relied on the assurance, it was to her detriment, and it would be unjust to deny her those rights. Alternatively, if Brenda did no work on the farm and left home to pursue another career, she cannot say she relied on the assurance to her detriment.
Grant of Some Form of Equity – Proprietary Estoppel
If Brenda can establish that she relied on the assurance by the property owner to her detriment, she can expect some financial remedy. This may involve the transfer of the property to her if the court makes an award based on her expectation that she would receive the property. This is quite likely if, taking the example of farmland above, Brenda had worked for a significant number of years on the farm in reliance on the expectation that she would receive the property. Alternatively, the remedy may look at compensating her, partially or fully, on the basis of the life she could have had had she not acted to her detriment in reliance on the assurance.
How Ridley & Hall can help
Should you feel like you may be in Brenda’s position, or indeed that of the property owner, we would be delighted to help you. At Ridley & Hall, our litigation team and also our family team offer a broad range of expertise and experience to assist you with any dispute you may find yourself in related to your financial interest in property.