The resulting trust in Singapore

In Neo Hui Ling v Ang Ah Sew ([2012] SGHC 65) the Singaporean High Court had to consider how the proceeds of sale of a house should be distributed. The house was in the joint names of a mother and daughter as joint tenants. There was no clear indication as to the equitable ownership of the property. The house had been paid for by the daughter. She did not intend to make a gift of any part of the beneficial ownership to her mother. The joint tenancy had been chosen purely for the benefits of the right of survivorship; the daughter intended to remain sole beneficial owner but that, should she predecease her mother, the mother would be the beneficial owner. The court held that where the joint tenancy had been chosen for this motive, it did not lead to the conclusion that a severance gave rise to equal beneficial ownership. In the absence of any clear indication as to the parties’ intentions, the usual presumed resulting trust approach would apply and the beneficial ownership would reflect the parties’ direct contributions to the purchase price. Thus, the daughter was the sole beneficial owner.

The mother also argued that she had a claim based on proprietary estoppel. This failed. The daughter’s only assurance was that she would keep a roof over her mother’s head. This was a personal assurance not linked to any specific property. The mother had given up a joint tenancy with her daughter in another property to move into the present property. But the ownership intentions were presumably the same for the former property as for the present property and so there was no detriment. The daughter had offered to provide her mother with suitable alternative rented accommodation but the mother had rejected it. This suggested that there was nothing unconscionable in the daughter’s behaviour in relation to her assurance.

The High Court left open the question as to whether there could be a presumption of advancement in the case of a transfer from daughter to mother in Singapore.


8 Responses to “The resulting trust in Singapore”

  1. chuwatimtim Says:

    How about the holistic approach in Stack v dowden? Did the court consider that? Perhaps the result will the same given the financial separation between mother and daughter is higher enough

  2. Michael Lower Says:

    Of course it seems that in England, Stack is not applicable to investment situations even where the co-investors are family members. See Laskar v Laskar (see blog post at

    • chuwatimtim Says:

      yes i read that case in your blog and i think the nature of the property in this Singapore case is pretty close to non-investment nature;

      Another thing i want to point out is “keep a roof over her mother’s head” in Chinese means “to provide a comfort housing environment to her mother”; it is hard to see why this is not linked to personal property if a legal system should be customized to the social norm; Well but even if it the sentence links to meaning of property, perhaps it voids for certainty requirement in assurance

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