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 medical bills.
    • 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 property.
  • 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 equitable remedy.
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed.
    • 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
        • A confidential relationship
        • 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.