At Issue
11/10/2011 2:12:18 AM EST
The evolution of the presumption of advancement in Hong Kong
The presumption of advancement has been criticised around the common law world as anachronistic and discriminatory; however, in Hong Kong, it is being developed as a useful judicial tool to determine the intent behind transfers of property.
Posted by LexisNexis

A presumption is a conclusion or inference as to a fact in issue drawn from other facts accepted as true. The presumption of advancement is an inference based upon society’s expectations as to the intention behind a transfer of property between those in a close family relationship. As such, the presumption of advancement has been criticised around the common law world as anachronistic and discriminatory. In some jurisdictions it has been restricted. In the United Kingdom, it has been abolished. However, in Hong Kong it is being developed ‘to feel the pulse of the society’ in line with its traditional purpose, as a useful judicial tool of last resort to determine the intent behind transfers of property where there is little or no credible evidence: see Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36 at 43 per To DJ.

The presumption of resulting trust and the presumption of advancement

The presumption of resulting trust arises when there has been a voluntary transfer of property or voluntary contribution to the purchase of property, and where it is unclear as to the intention of the transferor or contributor: Lam Ping Wong v Ho Chi Ha [1987] 3 HKC 544. In these circumstances, equity will presume that the transferor/contributor intended to retain his/her beneficial interest in the property. Therefore, the legal owner holds the property on resulting trust for the transferor or on resulting trust for himself/herself and the contributor in proportion to the contributions made to the purchase price. The presumption of resulting trust applies to real and personal property: Commissioner of Estate Duty v Tse Hong Hung [1991] 1 HKC 46. The presumption of resulting trust is rebuttable by evidence that a gift or loan was intended, or by the presumption of advancement:Lo Leung Shi v Lo Lim Yeuk [1912] 7 HKLR 6.

Although the presumption of advancement originally prevented the presumption of resulting trust from arising, it is now categorised as a ‘sub-rule’ of the general presumption of resulting trust. If the parties are within a recognised category of family relationship, equity will presume that the transfer or contribution was a gift intended to advance the recipient in life because of ‘the natural consideration of blood and affection’: Grey v Grey (1677) 2 Swans 594 at 598 per Lord Nottingham. The categories of family relationships recognised as giving rise to the presumption of advancement have traditionally been limited to a father to his child, an adult male to those to whom he is in loco parentis, a husband to his wife, and a fiancé to his fiancée. The presumption of advancement is itself rebuttable by evidence that a gift was not intended: Chan Lan v Shing Kei[2008] HKCU 1479.

The court first seeks evidence of the intent of the transferor or contributor at the time of transfer. Thus, the ‘rule’ in Shephard v Cartwright [1955] AC 431 provides that acts or declarations of the parties before or at the time of the purchase, or so immediately after it as to constitute a part of the transaction, are admissible in evidence, either for or against the party who did the act or made the declaration; but subsequent acts and declarations are only admissible in evidence against the party who made them. However, the rule does not exclude testimony before the court as the court may weigh the credibility of such testimony: Ip Man Shan, Henry v Ching Hing Construction Company Ltd (No 2) [2003] 1 HKC 56 at 317. If there is no reliable evidence, perhaps because one or all of the parties to the transaction have died, the evidence is tainted with illegality or the witnesses are all plainly self-serving and unreliable, then the ‘longstops’ of the presumptions can come into play. In such cases, gratuitous transfers or contributions involving close family members may result in ‘a battle of competing presumptions’: Cheung Lily v Commissioner of Estate Duty [1987] 3 HKC 307. The burden of proof in this ‘battle’ follows the general principle that he/she who asserts must prove. Thus, the legal burden is upon the party seeking to show that beneficial ownership differs from legal ownership. However, the plaintiff need only bring evidence of a voluntary transfer or contribution to establish the presumption of resulting trust. The legal owner then faces an evidential burden to rebut the presumption. This may be done by adducing evidence that consideration was paid, that a gift was intended, that there was another purpose to the transfer or that the transferee is within the recognised categories of advancement. If the presumption of resulting trust is rebutted by the presumption of advancement then the legal burden is on the plaintiff to displace the latter with an evidential burden to adduce evidence to support this, for example, evidence that the transfer was a loan or trust: Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36.

Common law restrictions

Traditionally, the presumption of advancement did not apply to transfers between a mother and child as the presumption derived from a time when a married woman had little or no right to own property independently, and, as Jessel MR stated in Bennet v Bennet (1879) 10 Ch D 474, there is ‘no moral legal obligation ... no obligation according to the rules of equity ... to provide for her child.’ Similarly, the presumption did not apply as between a wife and husband because the wife was under no obligation to support her husband (Re Young, Trye v Sullivan (1885) 28 Ch D 705), or between a child and parent because ‘fathers are bound to provide for their children, but children do not provide for their fathers’ (Grey v Grey (1677) 2 Swans 594).

The possibility of a presumption of advancement between cohabitees was dismissed by Lord Eldon in Rider v Kidder (1805) 10 Ves 360 because as the couple was ‘standing in no relation to each other’, then no question of advancement could arise. More recently, in Windeler v Whitehall [1989] FCT 268 at 269 Millett J (as he then was) stated:

"English law recognises neither the term nor the obligation to which [cohabitation] gives effect. In [England], a husband has a legal obligation to support his wife even if they were living apart. A man has no legal obligation to support his mistress even if they are living together.”

Problems with the presumptions

The usefulness of the presumption of resulting trust has declined in the UK in recent years. In Lohia v Lohia[2001] WTLR 101 the court held that s 60(3) of the Law of Property Act 1925 (UK) abolished the presumption of resulting trust for voluntary conveyances of property. The usefulness of the presumption of resulting trust has also waned in the familial context while the doctrine of the common intention constructive trust has grown after the decision of the House of Lords in Stack v Dowden [2007] 2 AC 432.

However, the presumption of resulting trust remains in Hong Kong. There is no s 60 of the Law of Property Act equivalent in the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance (Cap 219). Thus, a voluntary conveyance of land with no declaration as to whose use it was made will give rise to a presumption of resulting trust. Stack v Dowden is also of limited effect as s 9 of the Ordinance provides that when property is conveyed into joint names with no express declaration as to the nature of the tenancy then it is presumed that they hold it as tenants in common.

There has been a debate on the usefulness of the presumption of advancement for the last 40 years culminating in the UK abolishing all categories of the presumption: s 199 of the Equality Act 2010
(UK). Canada has removed the presumption as between husband and wife, and parent to an adult child (Pecore v Pecore [2007] 1 SCR 795) and New Zealand has abolished the presumption for spouses (s 4 of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976). Criticism has focused on the presumption being anachronistic and discriminatory. Such criticism is hard to rebut as the traditional presumption of advancement is undoubtedly a product of a bygone age, traced to Lord Nottingham’s decision in Grey v Grey which itself is based upon an earlier common law principle. The traditional categories of advancement are discriminatory as they all concern transfers from, or contribution by, men. However, if the presumption is developed in line with social norms then it is not anachronistic and discrimination may be ameliorated or removed. In Lee Tso Fong, To DJ stated (at 42):

"I must not forget that the law is a living thing. It evolves with time and with changes in socio-economic conditions. Unlike the presumption of resulting trust, where the law imputes a common intention between the parties when there was none, presumption of advancement is a rule of evidence. It infers an intention which, according to human nature or human behaviour, must have been what was in the contemplation of the parties at the time of the relevant transaction. Human nature or human behaviour is a reflection of the social norm which changes with time and with socio-economic conditions. ... Where the changes are so substantial, a stage may be reached when the basis on which the inference of common intention is to be drawn no longer exists or a new stage has been set for inference of some different intentions to be drawn as a matter human nature or human behaviour under the prevailing socio-economic conditions. When this occurs, the law has changed.”

In Hong Kong the presumption of advancement has thus been developed in line with social norms to remain a useful evidential tool.

Advancement in Hong Kong

In considering the traditional family categories of advancement, the courts of Hong Kong have confirmed that they are relevant because they reflect the presumptions of society. Thus, in Tam Chiu Kam and Tam Lap Shun, Administrators of the estate of Shum Tak Hing, deceased v Chui Yan Tai [1997] HKCU 28 Wooley DJ noted that although the father to child presumption is an old element particular to the English common law, it sits well with traditional Chinese family obligations. Similarly, the presumption of advancement between a man and those to whom he is in loco parentis is of particular relevance in Hong Kong because of the support of extended family. Thus, in Wong San Mui v Ha Pa Yang [1996] HKCU 215 because the grandfather had been the sole supporter of the extended family he was in loco parentis to his grandson; therefore, a purchase in the names of the grandfather and grandson was subject to the presumption. In Re Silkease Investments Ltd (Sze Ka Shuen v Silkease Investments Ltd) [2007] HKCU 2100, Kwan J held that the presumption applied to the stepson because the stepfather, even though he had been addressed as ‘uncle’, had been in loco parentis. Furthermore, although it was also held in Wong San Mui, following Bennet v Bennet, that a grandmother could not be in loco parentis as the presumption did not apply to mothers, more recent developments, discussed below, seem to support the presumption applying to a woman in loco parentis.

In Hong Kong, discrimination against men has been noted with the presumption from husband to wife being ‘much weakened’: Cheung Lily v Commissioner of Estate Duty [1987] 3 HKC 307. This should also apply to the presumption between engaged couples. Use of the spousal presumption has also decreased because of the wide powers of the court to reorder property rights on divorce under the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Ordinance (Cap 192). However, the presumption was applied in Lion Will Investment Ltd v Triple Will Ltd [1992] 2 HKC 430, and more recently evidence was accepted to rebut a gift between husband and wife in Ko Sha Lam v Kei Fong [2007] HKCU 1041. Of course, if the spousal presumption were reciprocal then it would not be discriminatory.

The English authorities have clearly identified the presumption applying to engaged couples: Moate v Moate[1948] 2 All ER 486. In Mossop v Mossop [1988] 2 All ER 202, s 2 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 (UK) (similar to s 24 (1) of the Law Amendment and Reform (Consolidation) Ordinance (Cap 23)) was interpreted as confirming that the presumption of advancement operates between fiancé and fiancée.

However, Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong cites, at [400.111], Au Keong v Chung Lau Hoi [1991] HKCU 36 as authority that the presumption does not apply to this category of relationship. This seems dubious authority as there was no need for Nazareth J to consider the presumption. There was clear evidence of the intention of the 62 year old plaintiff to make a gift of the purchase price of a flat to the 29 year old prostitute he had agreed to marry. Nazareth J (at 17) mentioned in passing the presumption of resulting trust not applying when a transferee is a wife or child of the transferor. As Nazareth J did not indicate those to whom the transferor was inloco parentis, it seems unlikely that this was intended to be a definitive list of accepted categories and the interpretation in Mossop would apply in Hong Kong.
 

Developments in Hong Kong

In response to social expectations, Hong Kong courts have also recognised a presumption of advancement in additional categories of relationship:

• a mother to her child; and
• a man to his concubine or his de facto wife.

Mother to her child
In Hong Kong, the extension of the presumption to transfers between a mother and her child has been a gradual development in the law. Judges have preferred to consider the presumption of resulting trust rebutted with the slightest evidence rather than rely on the presumption of advancement: Tam Chiu Kam and Tam Lap Shun, Administrators of the Estate of Shum Tak Hing, deceased v Chui Yan Tai
[1997] HKCU 28.

In Watson v Smith [1998] 3 HKC 461, the Court of Appeal considered the mother and child presumption. Godfrey JA, relying on Bennet v Bennet, stated: “... since there is no equitable obligation on a mother to advance a daughter, there is no presumption of advancement when a mother makes a purchase of property in the name of her child ...”. This was followed in Cheung Cho Kam Sindy v Cheung Yuet Ying
Rose
 [2007] HKCU 1184.

However, in Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36, To DJ stressed the changes in attitudes to equality worldwide, referring to Mrs Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain and the possibility of a woman president of the United States. To DJ also noted the development of the law in other common law jurisdictions, in particular the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, Canada, in Dagle v Dagle Estate (1990) 70 DLR (4th) 201, and the Court of Appeal of New South Wales in Brown v Brown (1993) 31 NSWLR 582. Both decisions doubted the modern relevance of Bennet v Bennet and approved extending the presumption to mother and child. To DJ thus chose not to follow Watson v Smith, clarifying that the Court of Appeal had not had the benefit of these authorities to consider. Thus, Bennet v Bennet was out of date and a mother to child presumption of advancement should apply. The decision was followed in Ha Yuet Chi v Yeung Yiu Keung [2010] HKCU 2428.

More recently, in HSBC Private Trustee (Hong Kong) Ltd v Ho Yuen Ping Dorothy [2011] HKEC 814, Coleman DJ commented (at [50]-[51]):

"There is usually said to be no presumption of advancement between mother and daughter (though I wonder whether in an appropriate case that principle might fall to be tested against modern views as to equality and non-discrimination) ... the defendant sought to rely on a presumption of advancement arising because the Deceased stood in loco parentis to her.

I reject those assertions on the evidence ... As a result, there is no need for me to delve further into the law relating to presumptions of advancement (though I might point out that I would see at least extreme difficulty in any independent woman in her mid-50s asserting such a presumption as being even
capable of arising as a matter of law).”

Coleman DJ did not consider Lee Tso Fong as the claim that the defendant’s deceased aunt was in loco parentis and was merely part of the ‘shifting sands’ of the defence and quickly dismissed. The more important and ultimately decisive issue was whether the defendant had exercised undue influence over her aunt to induce transfers of HK$58 million.

A man to his concubine or his de facto wife
The political and social history of Hong Kong has caused some confusion regarding relationships that can give rise to the presumption. The Chinese customary status of a concubine is defined in s 14 of the Legitimacy Ordinance (Cap 184) as a union of concubinage, entered by a male partner and a female partner before 7 October 1971, under which the union of the female partner has, during the lifetime of the male partner, been accepted by his wife as his concubine and recognised as such by the family generally. In Li Hung Chan v Wong Woon Heung (alias Wong Yuen) (1950) 34 HKLR 213 (at 226) Williams ACJ commented: “... any presumption in favour of a wife or child would apply in the present circumstances to the defendant as concubine, for the plaintiff has admitted his moral obligation to support her.” However, as the status or rights of concubine cannot be lawfully acquired after 7 October 1971 (s 5 of the Marriage Reform Ordinance (Cap 178)), the possibility of this relationship being contended in future litigation to give rise to the presumption of advancement is fast diminishing.

As it has not been unknown for a man married on the mainland under Chinese custom to come to Hong Kong alone and subsequently marry again according to the law of Hong Kong, it has been necessary
for the courts to consider the presumption with respect to ‘de facto’ or ‘secondary’ wives. Although the term ‘de facto wife’ has been criticised as ‘obfuscatory’ it was used and accepted as giving rise to the presumption of advancement in the Court of Final Appeal in Cheung Pui Yuen v Worldcup Investments Inc [2008] HKCU 1669. Madame Chin had not established she was either a ‘wife’ or a ‘concubine’, and, therefore, within one of the recognised categories giving rise to the presumption of advancement. However, Litton NPJ doubted the importance in determining intent of the ‘legal pigeonhole into which a party is put’ as the reality was that she was the testator’s ‘only wife’. Accepting the categorisation of Le Pichon JA in the Court of Appeal of the relationship as a ‘de facto matrimonial relationship’, Litton NPJ continued (at [9]): “Assuming this to be an accurate categorisation, it does not conclude the matter. The true question is whether such a relationship makes it more probable than not that a gift was intended...”.

Lord Scott of Foscote NPJ concluded (at [44]) that Madam Chin, although described as a ‘concubine’ in the pleadings, was a ‘secondary wife’ and that: “I can see every reason why the evidential presumption of advancement should apply; and I can see no merit whatever in the contention that a resulting trust ... should be presumed.” The court’s application seems in line with s 2 of the Inheritance (Provision for Dependants) Ordinance (Cap 481), which provides that a husband or wife in relation to a dead person includes a person who in good faith entered into a void marriage with the deceased.

The presumption of advancement may therefore be applied to husbands and legally recognised wives, concubines, and de factos or secondary wives. However, the presumption will not apply to those who merely cohabit (Lion Will Investment Ltd v Triple Will Ltd [1992] 2 HKC 430), the important factor being that the nature of the relationship is akin to that expected of a legal marriage and treated by the parties as such. As Muttrie DHCJ stated, in Lim Por Yen v Highfit Development Ltd [2003] HKCU 1382, with regard to a loan between parties where their marital status was disputed (at [14]):

“There is no magic in a marriage, in whatever tradition it may have been contracted. There are men who, having vowed in a Church of England marriage ceremony ‘With all my worldly goods I thee endow’, or its modern equivalent will not give their wives a cent. There are men who will give their mistresses a fortune and never expect it back. No doubt the same applies in all cultures and religions.”

Restrictions in Hong Kong

Familial relationships which have not given rise to the presumption of advancement include:

• parent to their child’s fiancé or fiancée (Chan Lan v Shing Kei [2008] HKCU 619);
• transfers to a child-in-law: Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36; and
• transfers between siblings: Yue Shiu Ngam v Zen She Lin [1999] 1 HKC 823.

Of course if the transferor has made themselves in loco parentis to the transferees then the presumption may apply: Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36.

Another criticism of the presumption considered in Hong Kong is that the parent-child presumption should not apply to adult offspring. Thus, in Yau Kwong-Chiu v Yau Kwong-Ha [2001] HKCU 147 (CA) it was noted that that the presumption was less likely if the child is a financially independent adult, as it is common for aged parents to put funds into a joint account with the child for administrative convenience. In Canada, this has been the justification for the presumption only applying to infant children: Pecore v Pecore [2007] 1 SCR 795. Interestingly, in Grey v Grey (at 600-1), Lord Nottingham noted that a married son who had already received a marriage settlement and so ‘appears to be fully advanced’ and ‘emancipated’ would not be the donee of further purchases by his father in his name: Ho Tak Ming v Chiu Ka Tsin [2003] HKCU 1397 per Lam J at [66].

Conclusion

The criticism of the presumption of advancement has focused on it being anachronistic and discriminatory. It may seem ridiculous that the presumption of resulting trust and the presumption of advancement, derived from English mediaeval and Restoration common law solutions to problems in determining property interests, are in use today in Hong Kong. However, in Hong Kong the presumption is being developed to accommodate modern socio-economic realities. The presumption is recognised as a tool of last resort and may be rebutted by ‘slight’ evidence that a gift was not intended. As there are very few restrictions on the admissibility of evidence in these cases, the presumptions are only raised when there is nowhere else to turn for evidence of the intent of the transferor.

The presumption of resulting trust was a development of equity in recognition of commercial transactions because equity is suspicious of gifts and tries to seek bargains: Pecore v Pecore (2007) SCC 17 at 24. It was presumed that a businessman would always intend to have his property returned or retain an interest in it. Similarly, equity prefers the tenancy in common for commercial transactions as a vindication of initial property rights rather than joint tenancy and the ‘gamble of the tontine’. Equity adopted the presumption of advancement to avoid the presumption of resulting trust in recognition of the special nature of familial relationships as opposed to commercial arrangements. In Hong Kong, it is quite common for a registered company to be used as a vehicle for the purchase of family property and for shares in that company to be held by family members even if they have made no contribution to the purchase. In such circumstances, determining beneficial interests relying on the normal commercial principles of equity may be inappropriate, as transactions between family members are not always subject to the same commercial considerations as transactions between strangers.

Changing socio-economic circumstances in Hong Kong make appropriate use of the presumptions of resulting trust and advancement as useful as they have always been. For example, a ‘hot’ property market makes it more common that adult children will require parental help in purchasing property. Without credible evidence of the intention of the parent at the time of transfer, perhaps because of the death of the parent or the breakdown of their relationship with the child, the presumption of advancement would reflect ‘the natural consideration of blood and affection’ to advance children. If the circumstances are such that the child already has property or the parent is aged and merely required help administering their property then the court may take this into account to rebut the presumption.

Although the presumption of advancement is clearly discriminatory in its application as between husband and wife, the recognition that the presumption applies as between a mother and her children removes discrimination against fathers. To eliminate discrimination, a reciprocal presumption that transfers from a wife to her husband as a gift could be developed if there is no clear evidence of intent. Alternatively, the presumption could be abolished as between a husband and wife but retained for transfers to dependent children. Hopefully, the judges of Hong Kong will continue to develop this useful evidential tool in line with socio-economic changes and the evolution of Hong Kong’s common law.

 

 

Steven Gallagher
Professional Consultant
Faculty of Law
Chinese University of Hong Kong

 

預付財產推定在香港的演變
Steven Gallagher表示,預付財產推定在普通法世界被批評為不合時宜和帶有歧視性,但是它卻在香港被發展成為一項有用的司法工具,以確定財產轉讓的背後意圖。

推定是基於其他被視為真確的事實,對相關的事實作出結論或推論。預付財產推定是根據社會對有親密家庭關係人士之間的財產轉移背後的意圖所作的期許而得出的推論。因此,預付財產推定在世界各地普通法地區被批評為不合時宜和帶有歧視性。在某些司法管轄區,這項推定已受到限制,英國更廢除了這項規定。然而,預付財產推定在香港正以「感受社會脈搏」的方式發展,並與其傳統目的一致,作為一項不得已時最後採用的司法工具,在只有少許或是完全沒有可信證據的情況下,確定財產轉讓的背後意圖:見Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36 at 43 per To DJ。

歸復信託推定和預付財產推定

當存在自願轉讓財產或自願分擔款項購置財產,但對轉讓人或供款人的意圖不大清楚時,便會產生歸復信託推定:Lam Ping Wong v Ho Chi Ha[1987] 3 HKC 544。在這種情況下,衡平法會推定轉讓人/供款人意圖保留他/她對有關財產的實益權益。因此,法律上的擁有人是以歸復信託方式為轉讓人持有該財產,又或是以歸復信託方式為他/她本人及供款人根據各人對買價的分擔比例持有該財產。歸復信託推定適用於土地財產和非土地財產:Commissioner of Estate Duty v Tse Hong Hung [1991] 1 HKC 46。歸復信託推定可藉著提出證據證明具饋贈或貸款的意圖,又或是藉著預付財產推定而可予推翻:Lo Leung Shi v Lo Lim Yeuk [1912] 7 HKLR 6。

雖然預付財產推定原意是為了防止歸復信託推定的產生,但現在它已被歸類為一般歸復信託推定的「附屬規則」(sub-rule)。如果各方是在認可的家庭關係類別中,衡平法將推定該等轉讓或分擔款項屬於一項饋贈,並出於「血緣和感情的自然考慮」,而有意預付給收受人終身享有:Grey v Grey(1677) 2 Swans 594 at 598 per Lord Nottingham。至於被認為產生預付財產推定的家庭關係類別,歷來只限於父親給予其子女、成年男人給予其養父母、丈夫給予其妻子,以及未婚夫給予其未婚妻。推定預付財產本身可藉著證據證明沒有饋贈的意圖而予以推翻:Chan Lan v Shing Kei [2008] HKCU 1479。

法庭會首先尋求有關轉讓人或供款人在轉讓時的意圖的證據。因此,在Shephard v Cartwright [1955] AC 431一案中的「規則」,規定各方在購買之時或之前或之後立即作出的行為或聲明所構成交易的一部分是可獲接納為證據的,不論它是否有利或不利於作出該行為或聲明的一方;但隨後的行為及聲明對作出的一方造成不利時,才可得獲接納為證據。但是,該規則並不排除向法庭提交的證供,因為法庭可以考量該等證供的可信性:Ip Man Shan, Henry v Ching Hing Construction Company Ltd (No 2) [2003] 1 HKC 256 at 317。倘若無法獲得可靠的證據也許是出於交易的其中一方或各方已經死亡、證據被非法行為所玷污,或是所有證人都是自私自利和不可信的,那麼推定作為「最後一著」便能發揮作用。在這種情況下,在關係密切的家庭成員之間所作的無償轉讓或供款,便可能會造成「對立推定之間的競戰」情況:Cheung Lily v Commissioner of Estate Duty [1987] 3 HKC 307。這場「競戰」中的舉證責任跟從「誰主張、誰證明」的一般原則。因此,主張實益擁有權與法律上的擁有權分屬二者的一方便須負起法律上的舉證責任。然而,只要原告人能舉出自願轉讓或作出供款的證據,便可以確立歸復信託推定。法律上的擁有人此時便面對在證據方面推翻推定的舉證責任。這可以透過援引證據證明已付出代價、有饋贈的意圖、轉讓帶有其他目的,或受讓人是在認可的預付財產類別之內完成。如果歸復信託推定被預付財產推定所推翻,那麼原告人如要否定後者,便須負起法律上的舉證責任,並在證據方面援引證據作為支持,例如證明該等轉讓屬於貸款或信託:Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36。

普通法的限制

傳統上,預付財產推定並不適用於母親和子女之間的財產轉移,因為該推定來自於已婚女性只享有很少甚或根本無權獨立擁有自身財產的年代,正如Jessel MR在 Bennet v Bennet (1879) 10 Ch D 474一案中指出,「沒有道德上的法律責任…根據衡平法規則,她們沒有義務…供養其子女。」同樣,該推定不適用於妻子與丈夫之間的財產轉移,因為妻子並無責任供養其丈夫 (Re Young, Trye v Sullivan (1885) 28 Ch D 705),也不適用於子女與家長之間的財產轉移,因為「父親有責任供養自己的子女,但子女沒有責任供養自己的父親」(Grey v Grey (1677) 2 Swans 594)。

Rider v Kidder (1805) 10 Ves 360一案中,Lord Eldon對同居者之間適用預付財產推定的可能性予以駁回,因為既然情侶間「彼此亳無關係」,那便不會存在預付財產的問題。近期,苗禮治法官(當時)在Windeler v Whitehall [1989] FCT 268 at 269一案中表示:

「英國法律不承認[同居]有任何在條件和義務方面的效力。在 [英國],即使丈夫與妻子離異,但丈夫仍有法律責任供養其妻子。一名男子即使與情婦一起居住,也沒有法律責任供養其情婦。」

推定所存在的問題

近年來,歸復信託推定的作用在英國有所下降。在Lohia v Lohia [2001] WTLR 101一案中,法院裁定《1925年英國財產法》(Law of Property Act 1925 (UK))第60(3)條廢除了在自願物業轉易方面的歸復信託推定。此外,歸復信託推定的作用在家事範疇中也有所減弱,而上議院對Stack v Dowden [2007] 2 AC 432一案作出裁決後,具共同意向的法律構定信託原則有所發展。然而,歸復信託推定在香港仍行之有效。香港的《物業轉易及財產條例》(第219章) 中並沒有相當於《1925年英國財產法》第60條的規定。因此,如果在土地自願轉易中並沒有聲明給誰人所用,這將會導致歸復信託推定的產生。Stack v Dowden一案所起的作用也有限,因為《物業轉易及財產條例》第9條規定,當財產轉易予聯權共有人,但沒有明示擁有權的性質如何,那便可推定他們以分權共有的形式持有。

過去四十年,英國就預付財產推定的效用進行了辯論,到最終取消了各類推定:《2010年英國平等法》(Equality Act 2010 (UK)) 第199條。加拿大取消了丈夫與妻子之間的推定,以及父母與成年子女之間的推定(Pecore v Pecore [2007] 1 SCR 795),新西蘭也取消了配偶之間的推定 (《1976年財產(關係)法》(Property (Relationships) Act 1976) 第4條)。批評主要集中於該項推定不合時宜和具歧視性。這樣的批評很難加以反駁,因為傳統的預付財產推定無疑屬於昔日的產物,可追溯到Lord Nottingham在Grey v Grey一案中的裁決,而該裁決本身也是以較早期的普通法原則為依據。傳統的預付財產類別帶有歧視性,因為全都關乎男性將其財產轉移,或是由他們作出供款。但是,如果該推定能夠與社會規範的發展一致,那便不會不合時宜,而所包含的歧視成分亦可能得到改善或消除。在Lee Tso Fong一案中,暫委法官杜溎峰稱 (at 42):

「我們不可忘記法律是有生命的東西。它會隨著時間的推移和社會經濟條件的變化而發展。與歸復信託不同,歸復信託是當不存在意圖時看成是各方當事人之間存在共同意圖,而預付財產信託則是一項證據規則。它根據人性或人的行為,推斷必然存在一種進行有關交易時雙方所作出的意圖。人性或人類行為反映社會規範,而後者會隨著時間推移和社會經濟條件而發生變化…如果出現大幅變化,這將會發展到一個階段,基於共同意圖的推論不再存在,或是基於普遍的社會經濟條件下的人類本性或行為,為作出一些不同意圖的推論而設訂一個新階段。一旦發生這種情況,法律已經發生改變。」

由此,香港的預付財產推定與社會規範的發展一致,並且仍是一種有用的證據性工具。

香港的預付財產狀況

香港的法院在考慮預付財產的傳統家庭類別時確認了這些類別是相關的,因為它們反映了社會的推定。因此,在Tam Chiu Kam and Tam Lap Shun, Administrators of the estate of Shum Tak Hing, deceased v Chui Yan Tai[1997] HKCU 28一案中,Wooley DJ指出,雖然父親供養子女的推定是一項舊有的元素,特別是關乎英國的普通法,但它與中國的傳統家庭責任相當配合。同樣,一名男子與其養父或養母之間的預付財產推定,因得到延伸家庭的支持,使該推定在香港特別有重要意義。因此,在 Wong San Mui v Ha Pa Yang [1996] HKCU 215一案中,由於祖父曾是該延伸家庭的唯一家庭支柱,也是其孫兒的養父;因此,以祖父和孫兒二人的名義購置的財產須受該推定所規限。在Re Silkease Investments Ltd (Sze Ka Shuen v Silkease Investments Ltd) [2007] HKCU 2100一案中,關淑馨法官裁定該推定適用於繼子,因為繼父 (儘管曾叫他「叔叔」) 曾是他的養父。此外,雖然Wong San Mui一案中亦裁定 (緊隨著Bennet v Bennet一案的裁決),祖母不能作為養母,因為該項推定不適用於母親,但就最近的事態發展而言 (於下文討論),似乎支持將該項推定適用於作為養母的女性。

在香港,男性被歧視的問題看來受到關注,因此丈夫供給妻子的推定已被「大大削弱」:Cheung Lily v Commissioner of Estate Duty [1987] 3 HKC 307。這也應適用於訂婚情侶之間的推定。基於法院根據《婚姻法律程序與財產條例》 (第192章) 對離婚作出產權重新排序的廣泛權力,運用配偶之間的推定也有所減少。然而,該推定適用於Lion Will Investment Ltd v Triple Will Ltd [1992] 2 HKC 430一案,而最近在 Ko Sha Lam v Kei Fong [2007] HKCU 1041一案中,法庭接納推翻丈夫與妻子之間饋贈的證據。當然,如果配偶之間的推定屬於互惠性質,這便不會構成歧視。

英國的典據明確指出該推定適用於訂婚情侶:Moate v Moate [1948] 2 All ER 486。在 Mossop v Mossop [1988] 2 All ER 202一案中,《1970年英國法律改革(雜項規定) 法令》(Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 (UK)) 第2條(類似於《法律修訂及改革(綜合)條例》(第23章)第24(1)條)被解釋為確認預付財產推定也適用於未婚夫和未婚妻之間。

然而,Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong (at [400.111]) 援引Au Keong v Chung Lau Hoi [1991] HKCU 36一案,作為該項推定不適用於這一關係類別的典據。這看來是不可靠的典據,因為黎守律法官根本不需要考慮該項推定。案中有明確的證據表明,62歲的原告人有意購買一個單位送給答應嫁給他的29歲妓女作為禮物。黎守律法官 (at 17) 在裁決中提到,當受讓人是轉讓人的妻子或子女時,歸復信託推定便不適用。由於黎守律法官並沒有指明那些人由轉讓人養育,因此這似乎不大可能算作為一份認可類別的最終名單,而對Mossop一案的解釋亦會適用於香港。

在香港的發展

為了回應社會的期望,香港法院在以下的額外關係類別中也承認預付財產推定:

• 母親給予其子女;及
• 一名男子給予其妾侍或其事實上的妻子。

母親給予其子女
在香港,將推定延伸到母親與子女之間的財產轉移,是法律上循序漸進的發展。法官寧可讓歸復信託因些微的證據而被推翻,而非依賴預付財產推定:Tam Chiu Kam and Tam Lap Shun, Administrators of the Estate of Shum Tak Hing, deceased v Chui Yan Tai [1997] HKCU 28。

 Watson v Smith [1998] 3 HKC 461一案中,上訴法庭考慮了母親與子女的推定。上訴法庭法官高奕暉以Bennet v Bennet一案為依據指出:「…由於母親並沒有衡平法上的責任供給其女兒,因此當一名母親以其子女的名義購買物業,這並不涉及預付財產推定…」。Cheung Cho Kam Sindy v Cheung Yuet Ying Rose [2007] HKCU 1184一案予以跟從。

然而,在Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36一案中,暫委法官杜溎峰提到戴卓爾夫人成為英國首相以及美國有可能選出女總統,強調全世界對兩性平等所持的態度改變。杜法官亦指出其他普通法司法管轄區的法律發展,特別是加拿大愛德華王子島最高法院(Dagle v Dagle Estate(1990) 70 DLR (4th) 201一案),以及新南威爾斯上訴法院(Brown v Brown (1993) 31 NSWLR 582一案)。該兩項裁決均對Bennet v Bennet一案與現代社會的連繫表示懷疑,並同意將推定延伸至母親與子女之間。因此,暫委法官杜溎峰選擇不跟從Watson v Smith 一案,闡明上訴法庭並沒有考慮這些典據的好處。Bennet v Bennet一案已經過時,而母親與子女的預付財產推定應告適用。Ha Yuet Chi v Yeung Yiu Keung [2010] HKCU 2428一案跟從這一裁決。

最近,Coleman DJ在HSBC Private Trustee (Hong Kong) Ltd v Ho Yuen Ping Dorothy [2011] HKEC 814一案中解說 (at [50]-[51]):

「通常人們認為母親和女兒之間並不存在預付財產推定(雖然我不肯定在適當情況下該原則是否可針對平等和非歧視等現代觀點來進行驗證)…被告人試圖依據產生預付財產推定,因為死者是她的養母。我拒絕就該等證據作出斷言…因此,本席無需進一步深入探討與預付財產推定有關的法律(儘管本席可以指出,任何五十餘歲的獨立女性就這項推定提出主張是極之困難的,即使該推定只是就法律問題而產生)。」

Coleman DJ並沒有考慮Lee Tso Fong一案來支持被告人的去世嬸母是其養母的主張,而僅僅是作為「變幻莫測」的辯護理據的一部分並被迅速駁回。更為重要的最終決定性問題是,被告人是否對其嬸母行使不當影響,誘使她轉讓了港幣5800萬元。

男性給予其妾侍或事實上的妻子
香港的政治和社會歷史發展引來某些混亂關係,以致造成該項推定的產生。《婚生地位條例》(第184 章)第14條界定「夫妾關係」在中國的傳統地位,指男方與女方在1971年10月7日前締結的夫妾關係,而在該關係下,女方於男方在生時已被其妻子接納為男方之妾,而男方家人亦普遍承認如此。在Li Hung Chan v Wong Woon Heung (alias Wong Yuen) (1950) 34 HKLR 213 (at 226)一案中,Williams ACJ解說:「…任何有利於妻子或子女的推定,在目前情況下將適用於作為妾的被告人,因為原告人已承認供養她的道德責任」。然而,由於在1971年10月7日或以後不能合法取得妾的地位或權利 (《婚姻制度改革條例》(第178章)第5條),在日後的訴訟中,各方當事人就此等關係進行爭辯而引起預付財產推定的可能性正急劇減少。

眾所周知,一名男子根據中國習俗在內地結婚後單獨來港,隨後按香港的法律再婚,法院因此而必須考慮有關「事實上的」妻子或是「第二任」妻子的推定。雖然「事實上的妻子」一詞被批評為意思「含糊」,但終審法院在Cheung Pui Yuen v Worldcup Investments Inc [2008] HKCU 1669一案中採納了「事實上的妻子」一詞,並接納其產生預付財產推定。錢女士並未能確定她的身份是「妻子」還是「妾」,以確定她屬於產生預付財產推定的其中一個認可類別之內。然而,終審法院非常任法官烈顯倫在確定「一方的法律歸類」的意圖時質疑其重要性,因為按照實際情況,她是立遺囑人的「唯一妻子」。他接納上訴法庭法官郭美超將該關係歸類為「事實上的婚姻關係」,並續稱 (at [9]):「假設這是一個準確的歸類,事情並非就此完結。真正的問題是,這種關係是否使得它更有可能存在饋贈的意圖…」。

終審法院非常任法官施廣智勳爵 (at [44]) 總結,雖然狀書中形容錢女士為「妾」,是「第二任妻子」,並稱:「我絕對有理由相信適用預付財產的證據性推定;而我亦看不到有任何理由認為歸復信託…應被推定」。

法院對其的適用,似乎與《財產繼承(供養遺囑及受養人)條例》(第481章) 第2條一致,該條規定與死者有關的丈夫或妻子,包括真誠地與死者訂立無效婚姻的人士。

因此,預付財產推定可適用於丈夫和法律上承認的妻子、妾侍,以及事實上的妻子或第二任妻子。然而,該推定並不適用於同居者(Lion Will Investment Ltd v Triple Will Ltd [1992] 2 HKC 430),當中的重要因素是,該關係的性質類似於法定婚姻所預期的情況,並獲雙方如此看待。正如Muttrie DHCJ在Lim Por Yen v Highfit Development Ltd [2003] HKCU 1382 一案所表示,在婚姻狀況存有爭議的當事人之間的
貸款情況(at [14]):

「不論一宗婚姻是以何種傳統方式締結,這其實都沒有甚麼大不了。儘管有些男子曾在英格蘭教堂舉行婚姻儀式時立誓:「將我所有世俗財產盡獻給你」(或是按現代的方式表達),但將不會給其妻子一分一毫。也有一些男人會將一大筆財富給予其情婦,從不寄望取回。毫無疑問,同樣的情況在各種文化和宗教中都有發生。」

香港的限制

不產生預付財產推定的家族關係包括:

• 家長給予他/她們子女的未婚夫或未婚妻 (Chan Lan v Shing Kei [2008] HKCU 619);
• 財產轉移給女婿/媳婦:Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36;及
• 財產在兄弟姐妹間轉移:Yue Shiu Ngam v Zen She Lin [1999] 1 HKC 823。

當然,如果轉讓人是以養父或養母的身份向受讓人作出轉讓,那麼該推定將告適用:Lee Tso Fong v Kwok Wai Sun [2008] 4 HKC 36。

香港對推定的另一種批評是,父母與子女的推定不應適用於成年子女。因此,在Yau Kwong-Chiu v Yau Kwong-Ha [2001] HKCU 147 (CA)一案中,如果子女是一名財政獨立的成年人,推定便不大可能產生,因為年邁的父母為了管理上的方便把款項存入他/她與子女共同開設的聯名帳戶中是慣常的做法。這是這一推定在加拿大只適用於未成年兒童的理由:Pecore v Pecore [2007] 1 SCR 795。有趣的是,Lord Nottingham在Grey v Grey (at 600-1)一案中指出,已婚兒子已接受婚姻授產安排並因此「看來完全獲得預付財產」和「擺脫了束縛」,對於其父親以其名義作進一步購置,他將不會再成為該等財產的受贈人:Ho Tak Ming v Chiu Ka Tsin [2003] HKCU1397 per Lam J at [66]。

結論

對預付財產推定的批評,主要是指它不合時宜和帶有歧視性。歸復信託推定和預付財產推定仍在今天的香港實行,這看來是荒謬絕倫的,因為該等推定是從英國中世紀和復興時期對確定財產權益問題的普通法解決方案所衍生出來的。然而,香港所施行的推定是隨著現代的社會經濟變遷而不斷發展。推定被認為是一項非迫不得已採取的最後一著,可以被「些微」不存在的饋贈意圖的證據所推翻。由於在該等案件中對證據的可接納性存在很少限制,因此只有當難以找到與轉讓人的意圖有關的證據時,才會提出該等推定。

歸復信託推定是衡平法承認商業交易的發展,因為衡平法對饋贈存疑,並探尋當中是否存在買賣交易:Pecore v Pecore (2007) SCC 17 at 24。根據推定,商人總想取回自己的財產,或是在其中保留自己所享有的利益。同樣,衡平法寧可選擇在商業交易中實行分權共有以證實初始的財產權,而非聯權共有以及「湯鼎氏養老金制」(gamble of the tontine,意指一種參加者共同使用一筆基金,生者的份額隨死者的增加而增加,最後一個生者得享所剩全部儲金的養老保險制)。衡平法通過接納預付財產推定以避免產生歸復信託推定,從而承認家庭關係的特殊性質而非商業安排。在香港,人們成立註冊公司作為購買家族財產的工具,並由家族成員持有公司的股份,即使他們並沒有就該等購置作出任何分擔,這是相當普遍的做法。在這種情況下,在確定實益權益時依靠衡平法的正常商業原則可能是不恰當的,因為家庭成員之間的交易並非總是與陌生人之間所進行的交易一樣作出相同的商業考慮。

香港社會經濟情況的轉變,需要適當使用歸復信託推定和預付財產推定,一如其向來被有效地使用一樣。譬如,「熾熱」的樓市使得成年子女需要父母幫助置業變得更為普遍。倘沒有關於父母在轉讓財產時的意圖的可靠證據(也許基於父母的死亡,又或是基於他們與子女的關係破裂),預付財產推定便會基於對「血緣和感情的自然考慮」的反映而給予其子女。如果情況是子女已擁有物業,又或是年邁父母需要子女幫助管理其財產,那麼法院可能會考慮到這一點而推翻該推定。

儘管預付財產推定在丈夫和妻子之間的適用明顯帶有歧視性,但如果能夠承認該項推定可以同樣適用於母親與子女之間,這便可以消除對父親的歧視。如果沒有關於意圖的明確證據,那麼容許妻子將財產轉移給丈夫以作饋贈,這便可發展出一項互惠的推定而將歧視消除。此外,該項推定可以在丈夫與妻子之間廢除,但在轉移財產給受供養子女這一方面則予以保留。我們希望,香港的法官將會繼續發展這一項有用的證據工具,並與社會經濟的變化以及香港普通法的演變一起同步發展。 

 

 

Steven Gallagher
專業顧問
法律學院
香港中文大學


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