"Equity regards the beneficiary as the true owner" is a maxim of equity reflecting the underlying concept that the purpose of a trust is to benefit the beneficiary and that the legal ownership held by the trustee is a form of stewardship or fiduciary duty.
Equity recognises that the trustee holds legal title to the trust property for the benefit of the beneficiary. While the trustee has the legal right and responsibility to manage and administer the trust assets, their role is seen as a means to carry out the intentions and protect the interests of the beneficiary.
By regarding the beneficiary as the true owner, equity ensures that the beneficiary's rights and interests take precedence over the legal technicalities of ownership. This principle allows the beneficiary to enforce their equitable rights and seek remedies if the trustee fails to fulfil their obligations or breaches their fiduciary duty.
In practical terms, this means that the beneficiary has the right to enjoy the benefits and income derived from the trust property and can assert their equitable interest in the assets. They may also have the power to direct the trustee's actions or make decisions regarding the trust property, depending on the terms of the trust instrument.
Overall, equity's recognition of the beneficiary as the true owner emphasises the equitable rights and interests of the beneficiary and ensures that the purpose of the trust is fulfilled in accordance with the settlor's intentions.
You can learn more about this topic and relevant case law with our Equity and Trusts notes.