It has frequently been stated that equity will not reform a conveyance which is merely voluntary and based on no consideration.' As thus broadly stated the rule is manifestly inaccurate, for it is universally recognized that a grantor is entitled to have a voluntary conveyance reformed. Moreover,the rule is unhelpful and even misleading, for it does not define the term "voluntary" and it ignores a line of authority which allows reformation of concededly voluntary conveyances in favor of parties other than the grantor.
The continued recital of this rule is probably due to a spontaneous reaction of abhorrence on the part of chancellors to the idea that an intended donee, a mere volunteer, should seek equity's assistance in obtaining something for nothing. Where the donee brings suit against the donor, this reaction is understandable, unless the donor has been guilty of deceitful conduct to the donee's detriment. But the donee or his successor in interest may have a conscionable claim, especially in a case where the donor is not a party and no longer has any interest in the property.
This will be a review of the authorities and a consideration of the underlying principles to determine: (1) when a conveyance is voluntary in the sense intended by the rule forbidding reformation of voluntary conveyances; (2) what circumstances may induce equity to reform a conveyance which is, in a broad sense, voluntary; and (3) what other techniques for granting relief may be available.
Henry D. Bell,
Reformation of Voluntary Conveyances,
4 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol4/iss2/4