The resulting trust is one of the more enigmatic equitable doctrines: not least because every commentator has a (different) view on how it should operate and be understood. The most recent, leading judicial statement of the manner in which resulting trusts operate was that of Lord Browne-Wilkinson in Westdeutsche Landesbank v Islington, as considered below. Unfortunately, it opened as many debates as it resolved. Significantly, it rejected the principal argument posited by Peter Birks in property law, to the effect that unjust enrichments should be addressed by a greatly enlarged ‘restitutionary resulting trust’. Lord Browne-Wilkinson confirmed that the ambit of the resulting trusts doctrine was limited to only two categories, but in so doing he disturbed some earlier understandings of this doctrine. Therefore, this chapter considers, first, the nature of the resulting trust after the decision of the House of Lords in Westdeutsche Landesbank v Islington; secondly, whether resulting trusts operate automatically; thirdly, how resulting trusts operate in relation to illegal activities; and, fourthly, whether the Quistclose trust can be understood as a type of resulting trust.
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