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McCormick v Grogan

[1869] LR 4 HL 82

Case summary last updated at 24/02/2020 15:57 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case McCormick v Grogan

S left his entire estate to T in his will, whom he later gave an envelope stating that the letter enclosed gave T instructions for distributing the property. The letter gave the names of S’ relatives/friends but left it “to T’s good judgment” to distribute the estate in a way that S himself would have. A disappointed beneficiary, who didn’t get anything, argued that there was a secret trusts and that T was in breach of it. HL found that there was no secret trust: Secret trusts are only justified in skirting round the Wills Act when there was evidence that a fraud had occurred or was likely to occur, on the basis that equity won’t allow a statute to be used as an instrument of fraud. Here, there was no such evidence and therefore no secret trust was imposed. It was held that S did not intend to impose an obligation on T. Fully secret cannot possibly be inter-vivos express trusts because a declaration of trust has not been made and they would therefore be void under s.53 LPA 1925. Rather they can only be explained as constructive trusts- see the Oakley pages. 

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