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Why does the absolute legal owner of property also have a beneficial interest in it? Because the author's distinguishing "beneficial" from "equitable", then what does the author mean by "beneficial" here?

      Judges and commentators have often used the word ‘beneficial’ followed by ‘rights’, ‘interest’, or ‘ownership’. This is a particular source of confusion. Sometimes, a beneficial interest is simply a different way of describing an equitable interest in property. But ‘beneficial’ does not always correspond with ‘equitable’, because the absolute legal owner of property also has a beneficial interest in it without any equitable interest. ‘Beneficial interest’ is therefore best used descriptively to identify a person’s right to receive some or all of the benefit of property, such as the use of the property or its fruits. So, if the legal owner of property has absolute title to the property, they will also have the beneficial interest in the property. But if the legal owner holds that property on trust for another, that other person will have the beneficial interest in the property as well as an equitable proprietary interest in it. It is also possible for the legal owner of property to hold that property on trust for themself and another person, in which case both the legal owner and the other beneficiary will have beneficial interests in the property.

Virgo, The Principles of Equity & Trusts 2020 4 edn. Page 46.

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Why does the absolute legal owner of property also have a beneficial interest in it?

Because the owner of property in which no one else has an interest is entitled to the benefits of ownership.

Because the author's distinguishing "beneficial" from "equitable", then what does the author mean by "beneficial" here?

Beneficial means the right to gain personal economic benefit from property.

An example would be a trustee for Fred who owns a mutual fund, which is a business trust that has legal ownership of lots of securities (or perhaps street name ownership in those securities through a nominee). Holders of mutual fund shares have an equitable ownership in these securities. But because the equitable ownership is held for the benefit of Fred, the Trustee does not have a beneficial ownership in the securities owned directly or indirectly by the mutual fund.

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Beneficial is related to benefit. If you are the absolute legal owner of land (for example) then you have the benefit of it - you can use it how you like for your own benefit.

If you do not have legal title (say it is held on a bare trust for you by trustee T) but you are, nevertheless, the owner in equity — then again you have the benefit of it, so you are the beneficial owner.

T is the legal owner but they are not the beneficial owner — T is obliged to carry out their duties as trustee, and can't use the land for their own benefit.

Virgo is using the word equitable in a more restrictive sense than most lawyers do (as he freely acknowledges) and that is another story. But he is using the word beneficial in the same sense as lawyers generally do.

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