Ridout Barron


When does a constructive trust form part of estate planning?

An Alberta court can order a constructive trust to right a wrong that led to one party being financially abandoned, abused or taken advantage of by another party. Although such an order can be issued in family court, it also forms part of estate planning under certain circumstances. When the court finds that one party lawfully owes the other party specific property, it can order that the obligated party hold the property in a constructive trust for the other party.

This could involve a family member who believes he or she is owed an inheritance. In many cases, such a court order follows a claim of unjust enrichment by one spouse against the other. To make such a claim, the claiming spouse must prove that he or she suffered deprivation due to the defendant's enrichment, and the enrichment must have happened without any legal reason.

A constructive trust is necessary when one party has a legal claim to specific property, not necessarily ordered by the court. However, if the court orders a monetary award to the claiming party, as the result of unjust enrichment, a constructive trust is not created. But the court can order the property owner to give the claimant a percentage interest in the ownership of the property, in which case it is called a remedial constructive trust.

Anyone in Alberta who has questions about the right to specific property or inheritance may find the answers by consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Legal counsel can assess the circumstances to determine whether the necessary connection exists between the property owner and the claimant. The lawyer can then explain the rights of the claimant and advocate for him or her throughout ensuing legal proceedings.

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Ridout Barron

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