Musson v Bonner – Case Summary

Musson v Bonner

High Court

Citations: [2010] WTLR 1369; [2011] CLY 3500.


The claimant and defendant were siblings. The defendant held a joint bank account with their mother. The mother provided all of the money in the account, which the defendant freely used.

When the mother died, the claimant sought a declaration that the money in the account was held on resulting trust for the mother’s estate (to be divided equally between her children). The defendant claimed that his mother told him the money in the account was exclusively his.

  1. Was the money in the account held on resulting trust for the estate?

The Court held in the claimant’s favour. The starting point was that the money was held on resulting trust. There were two ways the defendant could rebut this, both of failed:

  • The counter-presumption of advancement. While the counter-presumption could apply to gifts from a mother to a son, it would only do so if she was under an obligation to care for the child. Since the defendant was an adult child and the mother was not obliged to care for him, no counter-presumption arose.
  • Actual evidence that the mother intended something different. In all other dealings, the mother had distributed her property in shares to each of her children rather than making absolute gifts to any one of them. The defendant failed to prove that she intended anything different for the money in the joint account.

The defendant therefore held the money on trust for the mother’s estate.

This Case is Authority For…

The presumption of advancement applies to a mother’s gifts to her children if she is under an obligation to provide for that child.

Previously, it was thought that while gifts from a father to a dependent child would give rise to the presumption, a mother’s gifts would not. This case clarifies that the presumption has equal effect to gifts by women in certain relationships with the donee.