William Samuel Taylor (deceased) and his late wife lived in a large property, set in 15 acres of grounds, called Lower Manaton (property), near Callington in Cornwall. The deceased made a will in 1998 by which the defendants, who were his nephew and niece, were to be allowed to occupy the property for seven years after his death, on stated terms and conditions. At the same stage in late 2000 the deceased proposed that the defendants, who lived in Sheffield, should move to Cornwall and occupy part of the property with their two children. The first defendant favoured the idea; the second defendant was less keen, not wishing to leave the area where her family were based. The deceased spoke to her, suggesting that the property would offer a better lifestyle for the children and that, if they wanted it, he would leave it to them by his will. When the subject was raised again a few months later, the deceased suggested that they should move sooner rather than later but the second defendant doubted that it would work because of the difficulty of sharing accommodation. Eventually she was persuaded after it was suggested that the property be split between them, as its physical layout made it possible for two separate households to live there, one in the western part and the other in the eastern part. The deceased’s offer was corroborated by a rough handwritten draft letter addressed to the first defendant which came into being in July 2001. The defendants acted on the offer, placing their house in Sheffield with letting agents and moving to Cornwall with their children during August 2001. Thereafter they lived in the property for the rest of the deceased’s life, contributing to his care and carrying out improvements that enhanced its value. The deceased made a new will in 2002 by which the defendants were to be allowed to have the use of the property for their joint lives and that of the survivor, on stated terms and conditions. A later will made in 2005 permitted the defendants to occupy the property for only six months after the deceased’s death and, by his last will made in 2009, they were given nothing as regards the property. By that time, the deceased’s relationship with the defendants had turned sour and he brought proceedings in June 2010 for a declaration that they had no beneficial interest in the property, being no more than licensees or tenants, and for an injunction to allow access to all parts. The defendants counterclaimed for a declaration that the property was held on trust for them by virtue of proprietary estoppel. The deceased died on 28 November 2010 and his executors were substituted as claimants. The judge, in a reserved judgment, dismissed the claim and allowed the counterclaim, holding that the property was held on trust for the defendants, subject to their bearing the inheritance tax attributable. The claimants appealed.
Held (dismissing the appeal)
The argument that no promise was made to the first defendant had no substance. Since he already favoured the idea of moving, the deceased knew that it was the second defendant who needed to be persuaded and he must have realised that anything said to her would be passed on to, and discussed with, the first defendant. Since the family would move (or not) as a whole, any representation to either of the defendants would amount to a representation to both of them. While it was correct that the draft letter showed that the deceased had been asked, and declined, to enter into a contract, and that the terms of the offer did not include any provision as to the position after his death, his reference to not changing his mind and guaranteeing that no one should be allowed to contest the defendants’ occupancy after his death showed that there had been some discussion of the position as it would be after the deceased’s death. He had made representations, which were sufficiently clearly understood by the defendants, that if they moved from Sheffield to Cornwall and made their contribution as he had spelled out orally and confirmed in the draft letter, he would leave the property to them in his will. The judge was entitled to find that if the deceased had any reservations, he kept them to himself. The deceased’s failure or refusal to enter into a contract did not mean that either there was no continuing or operative representation at the time when the defendants moved, thereby acting in reliance on what the defendant had said, or that, if there was any such representation, they were unreasonable in relying on it. There was no misdirection as to the law. As to the proportionality of the remedy, the judge had not erred in finding that the minimum equity necessary to do justice, having regard to an evaluation of the encouraged expectation, the detrimental reliance and the unconscionableness of allowing the representation to be resiled from, required the outcome that the defendants were entitled to the whole property, subject to bearing the inheritance tax attributable thereto.JUDGMENT LORD JUSTICE LLOYD:  This appeal is against an order of His Honour Jeremy Griggs, sitting as a deputy circuit judge, which he made on 16 August 2011 in the Plymouth County Court. He dismissed the claim and granted the remedy sought by the defendants on the counterclaim. The claim had originally been brought …