Certainty of Objects Cases

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Clayton v Ramsden [1943] A.C. 320

Facts: Property was left to the settlor's daughter. The trust would be invalid if she married a man not of the Jewish faith or parentage. She subsequently married a non-Jewish man.

Held: Lord Atkin said the condition subsequent here was void for uncertainty and therefore the daughter could benefit from the trust

  • Lord Russell said a beneficiary under a trust subject to a condition of defeasance must know from the outset what will or wont make them lose their interest

Re Baden’s Deed Trusts (No 2) [1973] Ch 9

Facts: The Court of Appeal considered whether the terms ‘relative’ and ‘dependant’ were conceptually uncertain

Held: It was held that they were both capable of being defined with sufficient certainty, so the trust was valid

  • ‘Relative’ could be rendered certain if interpreted to mean ‘descendants of a common ancestor’: although that sounds confusing too as we all descend from a common ancestor
  • Once conceptually certain, it then becomes a question of evidence as to whether any postulant can be proved to fall within it (Sachs LJ)
  • The court also said where there is a wide class of beneficiaries (e.g. ex-employees of large company) trustees cannot just wait for postulants to come forward → trustees must make a survey of the class to get a feel for who is potentially in class when exercising their discretion
  • Stamp LJ said that this is NOT the same as a requirement to make a list

Re Tuck's Settlement Trusts [1978] Ch 49

Facts: Beneficiary in this case was entitled to income of a fund while married to an ‘approved wife’ (i.e. a Jewish wife). The trust deed provided that any uncertainty could be resolved by referring questiongs to the Chief Rabbi

Held: The trust was valid as the meaning of Jewish faith could be resolved by reference to Jewish law

  • Note that the provision that uncertainty could be resolved by reference to an external third party was included in the trust instrument; This case is not authority for a general or implied power to refer questions to any third party to resolve uncertainty of condition

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