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Proprietary Estoppel - Recent Developments in England and Wales

Brian Sloan

(2010) 22 SAcLJ 110

This article analyses the contrasting reasoning and outcomes in two cases concerning proprietary estoppel that recently came before the highest court in England and Wales. It argues that a context-based dichotomy may emerge in the application of estoppel principles in order to reconcile the Law Lords’ opinions. The article highlights the difficulties in drawing distinctions between “domestic” and “commercial” cases. It then discusses general difficulties raised by the use of proprietary estoppel in the “domestic” context and specifically in connection with the enforcement of oral testamentary promises. With an eye to developments in the comparative law, the article concludes that a statutory scheme for the enforcement of such promises could remedy the difficulties outlined by removing many “domestic” cases from the realm of estoppel.