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WHEN TRUST RELATIONSHIP ARISES

Dictum

In its legal sense, “a trust” is the relationship, which arises wherever a person called the trustee is compelled in equity to hold property, whether real or personal, and whether by legal or equitable title, for the benefit of some persons (of whom he may be one and who are termed cestuis que trust) or for some object permitted by law, in such a way that the real benefit of the property accrues, not to the trustee but, to the beneficiaries or other object of the trust – Professor Keeton in Law of Trust, 9th Ed.

— A.A. Augie, JSC. Huebner v Aeronautical Ind. Eng. (2017) – SC.198/2006

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ONCE THERE IS A VALID CONTRACT FOR SALE, THE VENDOR BECOMES A TRUSTEE

Jessel, MR in Lysaght v. Edwards (1876) CH.D 499 stated the following on the doctrine of constructive trust:- “What is that doctrine? It is that the moment you have a valid contract for sale, the vendor becomes in equity a trustee for the purchase of the estate sold and the beneficial ownership passes to the purchaser, the vendor having a right to the purchase money, and a right to retain possession of the estate until the purchase money is paid in the absence of express contract as to the time of delivering possession … If anything happens to the estate between the time of sale and the time of completion of the purchase, it is at the risk of the purchaser; if it is a house to be sold and the house is burnt down, the purchaser looses the house. He must insure it himself if he wants to prevent such an accident. If it is a garden and river overflows its bank without any fault of the vendor, the garden will be ruined, but the loss will be the purchaser’s.”

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FORECLOSURE PROCEEDING IS FOR EQUITABLE MORTGAGE – MORTGAGOR HOLDS LEGAL ESTATE IN TRUST

In considering the scope of the rights of an equitable mortgagee (not by way of charge) it should be borne in mind that the general rule is that foreclosure (and not sale) is the proper remedy of an equitable mortgagee (See James vs James (1873) L.R. 16 E. 153 citing with approval Pryce vs Bury at 154); and when an equitable mortgagee by deposit of title deeds and agreement to give a legal mortgage if called upon to do so takes foreclosure proceedings to enforce his security, the court usually decrees that the deposit operates as a mortgage and that in default of payments due under the mortgage the mortgagor is trustee of the legal estate for the mortgagee and that he must convey that estate to him.

– Idigbe JSC. Ogundiani v. Araba (1978)

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TRUST SIMPLICITER

Trust, simpliciter, is the right enforceable solely in equity to the beneficial enjoyment of property to which another person holds the legal title. It is a property interest held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the settlor) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary). For a trust to be valid, it must involve specific property. Certainty of subject matter is an important element in trust. It should reflect the settlor’s intent and be created for a lawful purpose.

— A. Fabiyi, J.S.C. Ibekwe v. Nwosu (2011) – SC.108/2006

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CONSTRUCTIVE TRUSTS IS AN EQUITABLE REMEDY IMPOSED – NOT BASED ON PRIOR INTENTION

On the other hand, a constructive trust is an equitable remedy that a court imposes against one who has obtained property by wrong doing. It is imposed to prevent unjust enrichment and creates no fiduciary relationship. It is also termed implied trust, involuntary trust, trust ex delicto; trust ex maleficio, remedial trust, trust in invitum; trust de son tort. A constructive trust is the formula through which the conscience of equity finds expression. When property has been acquired in such circumstances that the holders of the legal title may not in good conscience retain the beneficial interest, equity converts him into a trustee: Beatty v. Gygenheim Exploration Co. 122 N. E 378, 380 (N.Y 1919). See: Black’s Law Dictionary Ninth Edition, page 1649. In Kotoye v. Saraki (supra) at page 443, this court pronounced that constructive trust, as in this case, is imposed by equity on the ground of conscience and it is not based on the prior or presumed intention of the parties. See: also Ughutevbe v. Shonowo (2004) 16 NWLR (Pt. 899) 300; (2004) WRN (vol. 32) 27.

— A. Fabiyi, J.S.C. Ibekwe v. Nwosu (2011) – SC.108/2006

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WHAT CONSTITUTES A RESULTING TRUST – CANNOT RELY ON RESULTING TRUST IF NOT PLEADED

For the definition of what constitutes resulting trust see the case of Shephard vs. Cartwright (1995) AC 431 at 445. See also Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th edition at page 1315. As clearly illustrated in the leading judgment of my learned brother, Tobi, JSC, there are no hard and fast rules about what amounts to resulting trust especially as it relates to land. Where it arises, the claimant of the piece of land must prove by hard and concrete evidence that he actually owned and/or was entitled to the land but voluntarily or involuntarily opted that the Title Deed or Deed of Assignment be made in favour of another in anticipation of a marriage of whatever the case may be. Where a party as in the instant case, fails to properly plead the issue of resulting trust (or any other trust) he cannot raise the issue at the address stage or on appeal as the evidence or arguments or submissions on facts not hitherto pleaded, go to no issue.

— Onu, JSC. Ezennah v Atta (2004) – SC.226/2000

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RESULTING TRUST IS TRUST IMPLICIT IN THE CONDUCT OF PARTIES

Resulting Trust is a trust that can be readily deduced as being implicit in the conduct of parties but without express intent. Black’s Law Dictionary relies on the definition of a resulting trust as made out in the case of Lifemark Corp. vs. Newit Jx. App. 14 Dist, 655 SW. 2d 310, 316 as a’ “trust that arises where a person makes or causes to be made a disposition of property under circumstances which raise an inference that he does not intend that person taking or holding that property should have the beneficial interest therein, unless inference is rebutted or the beneficial interest is otherwise effectively disposed of’.

— Pats-Acholonu, JSC. Ezennah v Atta (2004) – SC.226/2000

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