Smyth v Halpin

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr. Justice Geoghegan
Judgment Date01 Jan 1997
Neutral Citation[1996] IEHC 56
Docket NumberNo. 3136P/1994

[1996] IEHC 56

THE HIGH COURT

No. 3136P/1994
SMYTH v. HALPIN

BETWEEN

FELIX SMYTH
PLAINTIFF

AND

JOHN JOSEPH HALPIN AND REGINA STOKES
DEFENDANTS

Citations:

DILLWYN V LLEWELYN 4 DE G F & J 517

INWARDS V BAKER 1965 1 AER 446

PASCOE V TURNER 1979 2 AER 945

Synopsis:

REAL PROPERTY

Proprietary estoppel - extension built to family house by son in expectation of fee simple - reversionary interest in house left in will to daughter - whether son had equitable right to reversionary interest - Held: Doctrine of proprietary estoppel applied - reversionary interest vested in son - (High Court: Geoghegan J. - 20/12/1996) - [1997] 2 ILRM 38

|Smyth v. Halpin & Stokes|

1

Judgment of Mr. Justice Geoghegandelivered the 20th day of December, 1996

2

The Plaintiff was brought up in a house and farm situated at Mill Road, Knock, Castletown, Co. Meath. In 1987, the Plaintiff decided to marry one Patricia Fox. The Plaintiff intended, if he could obtain a suitable site that he could afford, to build a dwelling house for himself and his new wife. He requested his father to provide him with a site on the father's land. According to the Plaintiff's own account (which I accept) his father's response was in words to the following effect:-

"This place is yours after your mother's day - what would you be doing with two places?"

3

The father suggested that the Plaintiff build an extension to the family home. The reference to the Plaintiff being left the place after his mother's day did not take thePlaintiff by surprise because in 1983 he had had an earlier discussion with his father in the kitchen of the house during which the father asked him did he want the place and he said he did. I accept that this conversation took place also.

4

For the purpose of constructing the extension to the house, the services of an architect, Mr. O'Daly were retained and his designs were done in the context that the entire house would ultimately become the Plaintiffs. In order to build the extension, the Plaintiff had to apply for a loan from the First National Building Society but that society needed security. Accordingly, the site had to be transferred to the Plaintiff and this was done. What emerged was in no real sense a separate house but rather a self-contained section of a house. Even if nobody knew of any conversations between father and son, I think that any reasonable person with knowledge of the family such as a friend or relation would have assumed that the intention at all material times was that the entire house would become the property of the Plaintiff upon the deaths of his parents. I find it difficult to conceive that the Plaintiff would ever have adopted his father's suggestion in relation to the extension to the house if it was not understood that he was to become the ultimate owner of the entire house.

5

The Plaintiff's father who is now deceased made a number of Wills. The earliest Will that can be traced was one dated as far back as the 20th April, 1966. That Will contained the following bequest:-

"I give, devise and bequeath my cottage with plot of land attached at Knock aforesaid and also my farm of land in the townland of Knock to my wife, Mary Anne Smyth for her life or until she remarries and on her death or remarriage to my son, Ian Smyth absolutely subject at all times to the rights ofmy children to reside in the cottage until they shall respectively attain the age of twenty five years or marry."

6

The Ian Smyth referred to in that devise and bequest is a brother of the Plaintiff. Under the father's next Will, however, dated the 13th February, 1976 which again predated the relevant conversations, he made the following devise and bequest:-

"I give, devise and bequeath my cottage with plot of land attached at Knock aforesaid and also my farm of land in the townland of Knock to my wife, Mary Anne Smyth for her life or until she remarries and on her death or remarriage to my son, Felix Gerard Smyth absolutely subject at all times to the rights of my children to reside in the cottage until they shall respectively attain the age of twenty five years ormarry."

7

It is to be noted therefore that as early as 1976 it was the testators intention that the Plaintiff should ultimately receive both the house and the farm.

8

The next Will was dated the 21st October, 1986. This Will post-dated the original conversation but predated the discussions at the time of the engagement. The relevant devise and bequest under this Will is slightly altered and reads as follows:-

"I give, devise and bequeath my lands together with my dwelling house at Knock, Castletown, to my wife, Mary Anne for her life and thereafter to my son, Felix Gerard but subject to the right of my daughters, Ann and Regina to have the option to choose a half acre site each off my lands for the purpose oferecting a dwelling house thereon. Ann and Regina are to have the option for a period of four years from the date of my death."

9

The "Regina" referred to is the second named Defendant in this Action. It is to be noted that under the 1986 Will also subject to the option in relation to the sites, the Plaintiff was to get the house and lands after his mother's death. The next Will which was the second last Will of the deceased is dated the 25th June, 1991 and is of considerable interest. Under that Will, the lands at Knock were devised and bequeathed to the Plaintiff's mother for her life and thereafter to the Plaintiff absolutely. The dwelling house at Knock was bequeathed to the Plaintiff's mother for her life and thereafter to the second named Defendant absolutely. It is clear that at that stage the deceased changed his mind in relation to the dwelling house. Finally, under the last Will dated the 23rd July, 1992, the Plaintiff appointed the first named Defendant and one Thomas Smyth (now deceased) to be executors of the Will and he devised and bequeath the lands at Knock to his wife, Mary Anne for her life and thereafter to the Plaintiff absolutely. But he also devised and...

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