Joint Tenancy Severed By Trust

Joint Tenancy Severed By Trust

A  joint tenancy of co owned property was severed by the signing of a trust agreement by one of the co owners held the BC Court of Appeal in  Public Guardian BC v Mee 1972 WWR 424 .

The respondent was the joint tenant with her former husband of real property.

Following divorce proceedings the husband executed a declaration of trust which was not registered at the Land Registry Office but was left with a solicitor.

By the document he constituted himself a trustee of his undivided one-half interest in the property for his infant son “until the sale or other disposition, or until the said William Donald Mee attains the full age of twenty-one (21) years, in trust for the said William Donald Mee to permit the said lands and premises to be used as a residence for himself, his mother and sisters.”

Further provision was made that if the property were sold one-half of the proceeds of sale were to be held in trust for the son, to be used for his education, and given to him on his becoming 21. The husband died some 5 years later and the wife made an application, which was successful, for a declaration that the property vested in her by right of survivorship.

The Public Trustee, on behalf of the infant appealed and the appeal was allowed.

The execution of the trust agreement was not consistent with unity of title and the joint tenancy was therefore severed and became a tenancy in common..

THE  LAW

A declaration of trust had the same binding effect as a transfer to a trustee and could as effectively sever a joint tenancy as a transfer made to a trustee; the trust created by the father in the case at bar was completely constituted and was binding on his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns.

It followed that a severance of the joint tenancy was effected: Milroy v. Lord (1862), 4 De G.F. & J. 264, 45 E.R. 1185; Stonehouse v. Attorney General of British Columbia, 33 W.W.R. 625, 26 D.L.R. (2d) 391, affirmed [1962] S.C.R. 103, 37 W.W.R. 62, 31 D.L.R. (2d) 118 applied.

6       There is no doubt, and it was conceded by the respondent in the Court below as well as in this Court, that a vaid declaration of trust (although not registered in the appropriate Land Registry Office) could effectively sever a joint tenancy to the same extent as a transfer made to a trustee would do. The principle that a declaration of trust has the same binding effect as a transfer to a trustee has been long the law and is set out in the oft-cited case of Milroy v. Lord (1862), 4 De G.F. & J. 264, 45 E.R. 1185, wherein Turner L.J. at p. 1189 said:

… in order to render a voluntary settlement valid and effectual, the settlor must have done everything which, according to the nature of the property comprised in the settlement, was necessary to be done in order to transfer the property and render the settlement binding upon him. He may of course do this by actually transferring the property to the persons for whom he intends to provide, and the provision will then be effectual, and it will be equally effectual if he transfers the property to a trustee for the purposes of the settlement, or declares that he himself holds it in trust for those purposes … but, in order to render the settlement binding, one or other of these modes must, as I understand the law of this Court, be resorted to, for there is no equity in this Court to perfect an imperfect gift.

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 40 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.

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