Thorner v Major and others: CA 2 Jul 2008

The deceased had written a will, revoked it but then not made another. The claimant had worked for the deceased understanding that property would be left to him, and now claimed that the estate property was held under a trust for him.
Held: The defendant’s appeal succeded. An intention to create a trust would be insufficient. The claimant had to establish an estoppel. ‘while there is no special rule as to the form or nature of the promise, representation or assurance which is capable of providing the basis of a proprietary estoppel case as regards a claim against a deceased’s estate, it seems to me that the general requirements that there must be a clear and unequivocal representation, and that it must be intended to be relied on, or at the very least that it must be reasonably taken as intended to be relied on, are of no less importance in this type of case than in others, and they must be applied with care, given that statements may be made about testamentary intentions which are not necessarily intended to be taken as promises.’

Ward LJ, LLoyd LJ, Rimer Lj
(2008-09) 11 ITELR 344, [2008] 2 FCR 435, [2008] EWCA Civ 732, [2008] WTLR 1289, [2009] 3 All ER 945
England and Wales
CitedRamsden v Dyson HL 1866
The Vice-Chancellor had held that two tenants of Sir John Ramsden, the owner of a large estate near Huddersfield, were entitled to long leases of plots on the estate. They ostensibly held the plots as tenants at will only, but they had spent their . .
CitedMaddison v Alderson HL 1883
The requirement of the doctrine of part performance is that the acts of part performance relied upon must be ‘referable’ to the contract sued on. The principle underlying the doctrine of part performance was expressed by Lord Selborne: ‘In a suit . .
Appeal fromThorner v Curtis and others ChD 26-Oct-2007
The claimant said that the deceased, his father and a farmer, had made representations to him over many years that if the claimant continued to work on the farm, he would leave the farm to him in his will. He died intestate. He claimed a proprietary . .
CitedUglow v Uglow and others CA 27-Jul-2004
The deceased had in 1976 made a promise to the claimant. The promise was not honoured in the will, and the claimant asserted a proprietary estoppel.
Held: The judge was right to have found that the promise was bound up with the claimant being . .
CitedSchaefer v Schuman PC 1972
(New South Wales – Australia) A promise to leave the property had been performed, and the issue was as to the relevance, if any, and the effect of an earier promise when the value of the devise was sought to be reduced by an order by way of . .
CitedGrundy v Ottey CA 31-Jul-2003
The deceased left his estate within a discretionary trust. The claimant sought to assert an interest in it, claiming an estoppel and, under the 1975 Act, as his partner. They had lived together for four years. She had been dependent upon him . .
CitedJennings v Rice, Wilson, Marsh, Norris, Norris, and Reed CA 22-Feb-2002
The claimant asserted a proprietary estoppel against the respondents. He had worked for the deceased over many years, for little payment, and doing more and more for her. Though he still worked full time at first, he came to spend nights at the . .
CitedCampbell v Griffin and others CA 27-Jun-2001
. .
CitedGillett v Holt and Another CA 23-Mar-2000
Repeated Assurances Created Equitable Estoppel
Repeated assurances, given over years, that the claimant would acquire an interest in property on the death of the person giving the re-assurance, and upon which the claimant relied to his detriment, could found a claim of equitable estoppel. The . .
CitedTaylors Fashions Ltd v Liverpool Victoria Trustees Co Ltd ChD 1981
The fundamental principle that equity is concerned to prevent unconscionable conduct permeates all the elements of the doctrine of estoppel. In the light of the more recent cases, the principle ‘requires a very much broader approach which is . .
CitedIn re Basham dec’d; Basham v Basham 1986
The claimant and her husband had helped her mother and her stepfather throughout the claimant’s adult life. She received no remuneration but understood that she would inherit her stepfather’s property when he died. After her mother’s death and until . .
CitedWayling v Jones CA 2-Aug-1993
The plaintiff and defendant were in a homosexual relationship. The plaintiff worked for the defendant for nominal expenses against his repeated promise to leave the business to him in his will. A will was made to that effect, but the defendant sold . .
CitedTaylor v Dickens and Another ChD 24-Nov-1997
The court has no general equitable power to enforce a promise even though broken in unconscionable circumstances. . .

Cited by:
Appeal fromThorner v Major and others HL 25-Mar-2009
The deceased had made a will including a gift to the claimant, but had then revoked the will. The claimant asserted that an estoppel had been created in his favour over a farm, and that the defendant administrators of the promisor’s estate held it . .
CitedGill v Woodall and Others ChD 5-Oct-2009
The claimant challenged her late mother’s will which had left the entire estate to a charity. She asserted lack of knowledge and approval and coercion, and also an estoppel. The will included a note explaining that no gift had been made because she . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate, Trusts, Estoppel

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.270582