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The subject will enable students to develop a broad and critical understanding of equity and trusts, with a focus on the law of trusts. We will first consider the nature of equitable doctrine more broadly before focusing on what a trust is and what functions it performs in modern Australian society. We will examine in detail the rules and principles governing the validity of express trusts. We will also consider trusts for charitable and non-charitable purposes, asking whether the law relating to charitable trusts is in need of reform. We will look at the range of fiduciary relationships recognised in Australia, including the trustee – beneficiary relationship. We will examine the duties owed by fiduciaries, including the fiduciary and non-fiduciary duties owned by trustees. We will consider resulting and constructive trusts, before finally exploring equitable remedies.
Equity and Trusts builds on the foundational knowledge of equity and trusts that students will have acquired from the compulsory subjects LAWS50026 Obligations, LAWS50029 Contracts and LAWS50030 Property. The subject emphasises contemporary applications of the rules, principles and remedies of equity. It also explores issues that are presently unresolved and the subject of contention.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has completed this subject should have an advanced, integrated and comparative knowledge of the law of trusts. In particular, such a student will be able to:
- demonstrate an integrated understanding of conceptual issues and debates in equity and trusts, including: the nature of equity; whether the trust is best conceived as property or obligation; the relationship of equity and trusts to unjust enrichment principles; and the character of resulting and constructive trusts;
- demonstrate a sophisticated appreciation of, and ability to engage in, the complex policy and practical debates surrounding equity and trusts, on topics such as: the proprietary consequences of trusts on insolvency; the proper relationship of equity and statutory law; and purpose trusts, especially those for charitable purposes;
- demonstrate a high-level capacity to critically and independently evaluate a range of propositions and arguments about conceptual and policy dimensions of equitable principles, including the trust;
- demonstrate a high-level capacity to critically and independently evaluate responses to issues in modern equity and trusts law in different jurisdictions from a comparative perspective;
- locate and understand the significance of the place of equity and trusts within private law as a whole; and
- use effective written communication skills in structuring and presenting relevant analysis, argument and conclusions.
On completion of the subject, students should have developed their skills in the following areas:
- Specialist understanding, interpretation, critical reflection, synthesis and comparison of judicial decisions, statutory provisions, and other primary source materials on equity and trusts;
- Interpretation, critical reflection, synthesis and comparison of academic literature on equity and trusts; and
- Generating and evaluating proposals for the reform of equity and trusts law in Australia, having regard to international experience and academic writings.
Last updated: 10 November 2023