For estoppel cases it needs to be shown that the older person relied on an assumption created or encouraged by, say, their adult child.


A widow sells her home to pay for construction on her son and daughter-in-law’s property on the understanding that she would live in an extension on the property for the rest of her life. The relationship between them breaks down and she is asked to leave.

What needs to be proved is:

  • the existence of an expectation that she could live in the property for the rest of her life;
  • her son created the expectation; and
  • she relied on the expectation to the extent that she would suffer detriment if the expectation was not enforced and the son knew of her reliance (Barkehall-Thomas 2008, p. 25).

The detriment suffered by the older person may be, in addition to the loss of a property interest, loss of expectation of family companionship and care in old age, and it may involve ‘life-changing decisions with irreversible consequences of a profoundly personal nature’; as such it may be ‘beyond the measure of money’ (Donis v Donis [2007] VSCA 89; see also Barkehall-Thomas 2008, p. 31).

Possible remedy:

Fulfil the expectation/reverse the detriment.