Equity (law)

Maxims of equity are legal maxims that serve as a set of general principles or rules which are said to govern the way in which equity operates. They tend to illustrate the qualities of equity, in contrast to the common law, as a more flexible, responsive approach to the needs of the individual, inclined to take into account the parties’ conduct and worthiness. They were developed by the English Court of Chancery and other courts that administer equity jurisdiction, including the law of trusts. Although the most fundamental and time honored of the maxims, listed on this page, are often referred to on their own as the 'maxims of equity' or 'the equitable maxims', it cannot be said that there is a definitive list of them.[1][2] Like other kinds of legal maxims or principles, they were originally, and sometimes still are, expressed in Latin.


o 2.1Equity considers that done what ought to be done

o 2.2Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy

o 2.3Equity delights in equality/Equality is equity (Aequalitus est quasi equitas)

o 2.4One who seeks equity must do equity

o 2.5Equity aids the vigilant not the indolent

o 2.6Equity imputes an intent to fulfill an obligation

o 2.7Equity acts in personam (i.e. on persons rather than on objects)

o 2.8Equity abhors a forfeiture

o 2.9Equity does not require an idle gesture

o 2.10He who comes into equity must come with clean hands

o 2.11Equity delights to do justice and not by halves

o 2.12Equity will take jurisdiction to avoid a multiplicity of suits

o 2.13Equity follows the law

o 2.14Equity will not assist a volunteer

o 2.15Equity will not complete an imperfect gift

o 2.16Where equities are equal, the law will prevail

o 2.17Between equal equities the first in order of time shall prevail

o 2.18Equity will not allow a statute to be used as a cloak for fraud

o 2.19Equity will not allow a trust to fail for want of a trustee

o 2.20Equity regards the beneficiary as the true owner

Role of maxims. Maxims of equity are not a rigid set of rules, but are, rather, general principles which can be deviated from in specific cases.[3] Snell's Equity, an English treatise, takes the view that the "Maxims do not cover the whole ground, and moreover they overlap, one maxim contains by implication what belongs to another. Indeed it would not be difficult to reduce all under two: 'Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy' and 'Equity acts on the person'".