Gibbon v Mitchell: ChD 1990

G executed a deed surrendering his life interest in a trust fund in order to vest the property in his two children: the deed did not have that effect because of two errors (one of which was ignoring the fact that his life interest was subject to protective trusts), with the result that the fund became subject to discretionary trusts for the remainder of his life and only then would it vest in his two children, and also in further as yet unborn children. He was not advised that the effects of the deed would be to bring about a forfeiture of his life interest and thus invoke the operation of the discretionary trusts provided for in s 33 of the Trustee Act 1925. In fact, in entering the deed on the advice of his solicitors, the plaintiff had intended to reduce the effects of inheritance tax which would be incurred if the terms of the settlement, in which he purported to surrender his life interest, remained in force.
Held: This was a case, not for rectification, but for setting aside for mistake. When challenging the decisions of trustees using the rule in Hastings-Bass, looking at considerations of the actual or potential adverse tax consequences of the exercise of the power are not relevant. The court limited the jurisdiction to set aside for mistake to cases where there is a mistake of law or fact as to the effect of the transaction itself as opposed merely to the consequence or advantages to be gained by entering into it.
Millett J reviewed the authorities and said: ‘In my judgment, these cases show that, wherever there is a voluntary transaction by which one party intends to confer bounty on another, the deed will be set aside if the court is satisfied that the disponor did not intend the transaction to have the effect that it did. It will be set aside for mistake whether the mistake is a mistake of law or of fact, so long as the mistake is as to the effect of the transaction itself and not merely as to its consequences or the advantages to be gained by entering into it. The proposition that equity will never relieve against mistakes of law is clearly too widely stated.’ and ‘Mr Gibbon did not merely execute the deed under a mistake of law as to the legal consequences of his doing so. He executed it under a mistake as to its legal effect . . Since its effect was not that which he intended, he is entitled to have it set aside.’
Millett J
[1990] 1 WLR 1304, [1990] 3 All ER 338
Trustee Act 1925 33
England and Wales
CitedRe Hastings-Bass; Hastings v Inland Revenue CA 14-Mar-1974
Trustees of a settlement had exercised their power of advancement under the section, in order to save estate duty by transferring investments to be held on the trusts of a later settlement. However the actual effect of the advancement was that the . .
CitedStone v Godfrey 10-Dec-1853
The father of a female infant, who was himself tenant by the curtesy, but whose right was regarded as doubtful, became next friend of his daughter in a suit against the trustee of his late wife’s real estates, in which a decree was obtained for a . .
CitedWhiteside v Whiteside CA 1950
The husband had executed a deed in favour of his former wife after dissolution of their marriage covenanting to pay a specified sum per annum free of income tax up to but not exceeding a stated amount. This provision was in substitution for one . .

Cited by:
CitedAbacus Trust Company (Isle of Man) Colyb Limited v Barr, Barr, and Barr ChD 6-Feb-2003
The court considered the Rule in Hastings-Bass, and specifically (1) whether the trustee’s decision is open to challenge when the failure to take a consideration into account is not attributable to a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the . .
CitedAMP (UK) Plc and Another v Barker and Others ChD 8-Dec-2000
The claimants were interested under a pension scheme. Alterations had been made, which the said had been in error, and they sought rectification to remove a link between early leaver benefits and incapacity benefits. The defendant trustees agreed . .
CitedFender (Administrator of FG Collier and Sons Ltd) v National Westminster Bank Plc ChD 26-Sep-2008
The administrator sought declarations as to whether to treat the bank as a secured or unsecured creditor.
Held: The court directed the Administrator to recognise the Bank as a secured creditor, as if the Deed of Release had never been . .
CitedPitt and Another v Holt and Others ChD 18-Jan-2010
The deceased had created a settlement in favour of his wife. He suffered serious injury and placed the damages in trust, but in a form which created an unnecessary liability to Inheritance Tax on his death. The wife’s mental health act receiver now . .
CitedAnker-Petersen v Christensen ChD 2002
Where a mistake is made as to the effect of an appointment under a trust it may be possible to invoke the court’s jurisdiction to rescind the appointment. Davis J considered Millett J’s distinction between ‘effect’ and ‘consequences’: ‘An example in . .
CitedPitt and Another v Holt and Another ChD 18-Jan-2010
The claimant sought to unravel a settlement she had made as receiver for her late husband, saying that it had been made without consideration of its Inheritance Tax implications. The Revenue said that there was no operative mistake so as to allow . .
CitedFutter and Another v Futter and Others ChD 11-Mar-2010
Various family settlements had been created. The trustees wished to use the rule in Hastings-Bass to re-open decisions they had made after receiving incorrect advice.
Held: The deeds were set aside as void. The Rule in Hastings-Bass derives . .
CitedAllnutt and Another v Wilding and others; Re Strain (deceased) CA 3-Apr-2007
The trustees of a discretionary settlement requested its rectification on the basis that the now deceased settlor’s solicitor had mistakenly not appreciated the need to confer interests in possession on the beneficiaries, with the consequence that . .
CitedAshcroft v Barnsdale and Others ChD 30-Jul-2010
The parties sought to rectify a deed of family arrangement varying a will. The variation deed had had several mistakes which in fact increased the sum of Inheritance Tax owed. HMRC refused to accept the rectification deed unless approved by the . .
CitedFutter and Another v Revenue and Customs; Pitt v Same SC 9-May-2013
Application of Hastings-Bass Rule
F had created two settlements. Distributions were made, but overlooking the effect of section 2(4) of the 2002 Act, creating a large tax liability. P had taken advice on the investment of the proceeds of a damages claim and created a discretionary . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 10 March 2021; Ref: scu.181650