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Resulting trusts in the conflict of laws: an Australian perspective
Journal of Private International Law  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-09-22, DOI: 10.1080/17441048.2021.1956160
Lachlan Forrester

The common law world continues to grapple with how to properly characterise equitable doctrines in private international law. There has been extensive criticism of the existing approach to characterisation and choice of law for equity which favours separately characterising equitable obligations and applying the lex fori. Within this broader discourse, a debate is beginning to emerge around issues involving both equitable obligations and immovable property. In this early debate, two schools of thought have developed with respect to the proper characterisation and choice of law for implied or resulting trusts over immovable property. The first approach, advanced primarily by the courts, characterises the trust as an equitable obligation governed by the lex fori. The second approach, primarily endorsed by commentators, characterises the trust as an issue of immovable property governed by the lex situs. This paper, upon evaluating the lex fori and the lex situs against the underlying objectives of choice of law, rejects both approaches as unfit for purpose. Instead, it advocates a new approach to the characterisation and choice of law for resulting trusts. This paper proposes that resulting trusts be governed by the proper law of the relationship. This conception would align with the approach taken to express trusts under the Hague Trusts Convention and most effectively provides for consistency and clarity while upholding the reasonable expectations of the parties.