Chapter IHTM04441

CourtHM Revenue & Customs
Record NumberIHTM04441
Published date20 March 2016

The concept of beneficial ownership, as distinguished from strict legal ownership is fundamental in English law and its origins lie in medieval times, when an injured party could only obtain redress if their complaint came within the scope of an existing writ. Such writs were often very limited and inflexible and did not always provide a remedy. In such cases petitions could be addressed to the Chancellor, complaining that the particular circumstances fell outside of the ordinary mechanism, and another way was sought. The Chancellor would then attempt to give (or withhold) relief to the petitioner according tohis own sense of right or wrong. These decisions eventually developed into a body of law known as equity, distinct from the existing common law.

From this arose the distinction between equitable and legal ownership, where equity would allow the use and benefit of property, usually land, to be held separately from the legal ownership. In those...

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