Hieble v. Hieble
164 Conn. 56, 316 A.2d 777 (1972)
Ma Hieble had cancer. She
transferred the deed to her house to her son and daughter. There was an
oral agreement that this was a temporary arrangement.
The son and daughter make
payments and pay taxes on the property while Ma Hieble recovered, then
after five years, she was to take the property back.
This would stop creditors
from being able to take the property if Ma Hieble couldn't pay her
They all continued to live
there, along with Grandma Heible.
Eventually the daughter
relinquished title to the house, leaving it 100% in the son's name.
After 5 years, Ma Hieble was
feeling better and asked for title to the house back. The son
procrastinated about giving the deed back.
After 5 years of trying to get
her son to give back the property, Ma Hieble sued.
During those 5 years the son
had moved out and Ma Hieble had been paying for the upkeep of the
The Trial Court found that a constructive
trust had been created on the basis of
the oral agreement. The son appealed.
A constructive trust basically means that the property still
technically belongs to the son, but he must keep it in a trust that
benefits Ma Hieble, so it is the son's in name only.
In order to create a constructive
trust, the court has to be acting in
equity to remedy a bad act. In this case the bad act was the unjust
enrichment of the son.
The son unsuccessfully
argued that since Ma transferred the property to keep it away from
creditors, she had 'unclean hands' and therefore was not eligible for an
The Connecticut Supreme Court
If you remember, under the
Statute of Frauds, contracts involving real property must be in writing,
so the oral contract to return the house is not technically enforceable.
That's why the Court
couldn't order the son to turn over the property directly.
The Court agreed that a constructive
trust had been formed.
In order to form a constructive
trust there must be:
An oral agreement
The parties must conduct
themselves as if the agreement is being followed.
The son argued that there
was no confidential relationship.
According to the Restatement
of Trusts § 44, "Where the owner
of an interest in land transfers it inter vivos to another
in trust for the transferor, but no memorandum properly evidencing the
intention to create a trust is signed, as required by the Statute of
Frauds, and the transferee refuses to perform the trust, the transferee
hold the interest upon a constructive trust for the transferor if...the transferee at the time of the
transfer was in a confidential relation of the transferor."
Ma Hieble could have
theoretically argued that the kids were holding the property in an oral
trust. However, since there was real
property involved, all contracts must be in writing per the Statute of
Frauds, so you couldn't enforce any oral trust.