Williams (JW) v Williams (MA) [1976] Ch 278, CA

The effect of the purpose of a trust in providing a family home on an attempted claim for a sales order under the 1925 LPA.


A husband and wife jointly owned a piece of property that acted as their family home, where they lived alongside their four children. The husband subsequently deserted his family, who remained occupant in the house. He later wished to sell the house so as to be able to reclaim his contribution to the purchase price. The wife objected to this, asserting that she held a beneficial interest in the property and that the purpose of the trust over the house was for the provision of a family home. and so the husband applied to the Courts for an order of sale under the Law of Property Act 1925, s. 30.


Was the purpose of the trust regarding the property that of being a matrimonial home (which would thus be deemed ended given the breakdown of the marriage) or that of being a family home (which would allow the wife to assert her family’s beneficial interest in the property).


The Court of Appeal found for the wife, rejecting the husband’s argument that an order of sale could be issued as the purpose of the trust – the provision of a matrimonial home – was ended, as per the reasoning in Jones v Challenger [1961] 1 QB 176. Rather, the purpose of the trust was identifiable as the provision of a family home, a purpose which was ongoing. Subsequently, the issuing of a sales order would serve to undermine the purpose of the trust and encourage an inequitable breach of trust.

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