Maxims of Equity

Maxims of equity are legal maxims that serve as broad principles or rules which are said to govern the way in which equity operates. Illustrating the qualities of equity (as opposed to the common law), it is a more flexible, responsive approach to the needs of the individual, inclined to take into account the parties’ conduct and worthiness.

Developed by the English Court of Chancery and other courts that administer equity jurisdiction, including the law of trusts.

Equity looks to the intent not the form
Equity is concerned with a party’s intentions rather than the formalities of the words used. In Paul v Constance (1977), the Court held that Mr. Constance’s informal words and conduct inferred a desire for his bank deposit account to be held on trust.

Equity is equality
Where property is held for two or more persons but there is no declaration as to their share, this maxim may apply to allow for equal division.

Equity will not perfect an imperfect gift
A donor must comply with the appropriate formalities to transfer the legal title and make a perfect gift, otherwise the gift will fail and will not be saved by equity.

Equity will not allow a statute to be used as an instrument of fraud
If a defendant abuses the strict provisions of a statute in such a manner that enables him to get away with fraud, the court will suspend the operation of that statute.

Categories: Equities and Trusts, Trusts: Basics

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