| Wills, trusts |
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A trust is a legal relationship in which the legal title to property is entrusted to a person or legal entity with a fiduciary duty to hold and use it for another's benefit. In the Anglo-American common law, the party who entrusts the property is known as the "settlor", the party to whom the property is entrusted is known as the "trustee", the party for whose benefit the property is entrusted is known as the "beneficiary", and the entrusted property itself is known as the "corpus" or "trust property".With the strategic and legal use of Trusts, individuals can ensure that their children and grandchildren or chosen beneficiaries are able to benefit completely from the inheritance they want them to receive.
A testamentary trust is created by a will and arises after the death of the settlor. An inter vivos trust is created during the settlor's lifetime by a trust instrument. A trust may be revocable or irrevocable; in the United States, a trust is presumed to be irrevocable unless the instrument or will creating it states it is revocable, except in California, Oklahoma and Texas, in which trusts are presumed to be revocable unless the instrument or will creating them states they are irrevocable. An irrevocable trust can be "broken" (revoked) only by a judicial proceeding.
The trustee is the legal owner of the property in trust, as fiduciary for the beneficiary or beneficiaries who is/are the equitable owner(s) of the trust property. Trustees thus have a fiduciary duty to manage the trust to the benefit of the equitable owners. They must provide a regular accounting of trust income and expenditures. Trustees may be compensated and be reimbursed their expenses. A court of competent jurisdiction can remove a trustee who breaches his/her fiduciary duty. Some breaches of fiduciary duty can be charged and tried as criminal offenses in a court of law.
A trustee can be a natural person, a business entity or a public body. A trust in the United States may be subject to federal and state taxation.
A trust is created by a settlor, who transfers title to some or all of his or her property to a trustee, who then holds title to that property in trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. [ citation needed ] For example, in a living trust it is common for the grantor to be both a trustee and a lifetime beneficiary while naming other contingent beneficiaries.[ citation needed ]The trust is governed by the terms under which it was created. In most jurisdictions, this requires a contractual trust agreement or deed. It is possible for a single individual to assume the role of more than one of these parties, and for multiple individuals to share a single role.
Trusts have existed since Roman times and have become one of the most important innovations in property law.Trust law has evolved through court rulings differently in different states, so statements in this article are generalizations; understanding the jurisdiction-specific case law involved is tricky. Some U.S. states are adapting the Uniform Trust Code to codify and harmonize their trust laws, but state-specific variations still remain.
An owner placing property into trust turns over part of his or her bundle of rights to the trustee, separating the property's legal ownership and control from its equitable ownership and benefits. This may be done for tax reasons or to control the property and its benefits if the settlor is absent, incapacitated, or deceased. Testamentary trusts may be created in wills, defining how money and property will be handled for children or other beneficiaries.
While the trustee is given legal title to the trust property, in accepting title the trustee owes a number of fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. The primary duties owed are those of loyalty, prudence and impartiality.Trustees may be held to a very high standard of care in their dealings to enforce their behavior. To ensure beneficiaries receive their due, trustees are subject to a number of ancillary duties in support of the primary duties, including duties of openness and transparency, and duties of recordkeeping, accounting, and disclosure. In addition, a trustee has a duty to know, understand, and abide by the terms of the trust and relevant law. The trustee may be compensated and have expenses reimbursed, but otherwise must turn over all profits from the trust properties and neither endebt nor riskily speculate on the trust assets without the written, clear permission of all of the adult beneficiaries.
There are strong restrictions regarding a trustee with a conflict of interest. Courts can reverse a trustee's actions, order profits returned, and impose other sanctions if they find a trustee has failed in any of his or her duties. Such a failure is a civil breach of trust and can leave a neglectful or dishonest trustee with severe liabilities for the breach. It is highly advisable for settlors and in many cases trustees to seek qualified legal counsel (advice) before entering into or creating a trust agreement and trustees must take great care in acting or omitting to act to avoid unlawful mistakes.
Roman law had a well-developed concept of the trust ( fideicommissum ) in terms of "testamentary trusts" created by wills but never developed the concept of the inter vivos (living) trusts which apply while the creator lives. This was created by later common law jurisdictions. Personal trust law developed in England at the time of the Crusades, during the 12th and 13th centuries. In medieval English trust law, the settlor was known as the feoffor to uses, while the trustee was known as the feoffee to uses, and the beneficiary was known as the cestui que use, or cestui que trust.
At the time, land ownership in England was based on the feudal system. When a landowner left England to fight in the Crusades, he conveyed ownership of his lands in his absence to manage the estate and pay and receive feudal dues, on the understanding that the ownership would be conveyed back on his return. However, Crusaders often encountered refusal to hand over the property upon their return. Unfortunately for the Crusader, English common law did not recognize his claim. As far as the King's courts were concerned, the land belonged to the trustee, who was under no obligation to return it. The Crusader had no legal claim. The disgruntled Crusader would then petition the king, who would refer the matter to his Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor could decide a case according to his conscience. At this time, the principle of equity was born.
The Lord Chancellor would consider it "unconscionable" that the legal owner could go back on his word and deny the claims of the Crusader (the "true" owner). Therefore, he would find in favour of the returning Crusader. Over time, it became known that the Lord Chancellor's court (the Court of Chancery) would continually recognize the claim of a returning Crusader. The legal owner would hold the land for the benefit of the original owner and would be compelled to convey it back to him when requested. The Crusader was the "beneficiary" and the acquaintance the "trustee". The term "use of land" was coined, and in time developed into what we now know as a trust.
The trust is widely considered to be the most innovative contribution of the English legal system. [ verification needed ] Today, trusts play a significant role in most common law systems, and their success has led some civil law jurisdictions to incorporate trusts into their civil codes. In Curaçao, for example, the trust was enacted into law on 1 January 2012; however, the Curaçao Civil Code only allows express trusts constituted by notarial instrument. France has recently added a similar, Roman-law-based device to its own law with the fiducie, amended in 2009; the fiducie, unlike a trust, is a contractual relationship. Trusts are widely used internationally, especially in countries within the English law sphere of influence, and whilst most civil law jurisdictions do not generally contain the concept of a trust within their legal systems, they do recognise the concept under the Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Trusts and on their Recognition (partly only the extent that they are parties thereto). The Hague Convention also regulates conflict of trusts.
Although trusts are often associated with intrafamily wealth transfers, they have become very important in American capital markets, particularly through pension funds (in certain countries essentially always trusts) and mutual funds (often trusts).
Property of any sort may be held in a trust. The uses of trusts are many and varied, for both personal and commercial reasons, and trusts may provide benefits in estate planning, asset protection, and taxes. Living trusts may be created during a person's life (through the drafting of a trust instrument) or after death in a will.
In a relevant sense, a trust can be viewed as a generic form of a corporation where the settlors (investors) are also the beneficiaries. This is particularly evident in the Delaware business trust, which could theoretically, with the language in the "governing instrument", be organized as a cooperative corporation or a limited liability corporation, 475–6 although traditionally the Massachusetts business trust has been commonly used in the US. One of the most significant aspects of trusts is the ability to partition and shield assets from the trustee, multiple beneficiaries, and their respective creditors (particularly the trustee's creditors), making it "bankruptcy remote", and leading to its use in pensions, mutual funds, and asset securitization as well protection of individual spendthrifts through the spendthrift trust.:
Trusts may be created by the expressed intentions of the settlor also known as the founder (express trusts)or they may be created by operation of law known as implied trusts. An implied trust is one created by a court of equity because of acts or situations of the parties. Implied trusts are divided into two categories: resulting and constructive. A resulting trust is implied by the law to work out the presumed intentions of the parties, but it does not take into consideration their expressed intent. A constructive trust is a trust implied by law to work out justice between the parties, regardless of their intentions.
Common ways in which a trust is created include:
In some jurisdictions, certain types of assets may not be the subject of a trust without a written document.
The formalities required of a trust depends on the type of trust in question.
Generally, a private express trust requires three elements to be certain, which together are known as the "three certainties". These elements were determined in Knight v Knight to be intention, subject matter and objects.The certainty of intention allows the court to ascertain a settlor's true reason for creating the trust. The certainties of subject matter and objects allow the court to administer trust when the trustees fail to do so. The court determines whether there is sufficient certainty by construing the words used in the trust instrument. These words are construed objectively in their "reasonable meaning", within the context of the entire instrument. Despite intention being integral to express trusts, the court will try not to let trusts fail for the lack of certainty.
A trust may have multiple trustees, and these trustees are the legal owners of the trust's property, but have a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries and various duties, such as a duty of care and a duty to inform.If trustees do not adhere to these duties, they may be removed through a legal action. The trustee may be either a person or a legal entity such as a company, but typically the trust itself is not a legal entity and any litigation involving the trust must include the trustee as a party. A trustee has many rights and responsibilities which vary based on the jurisdiction and trust instrument. If a trust lacks a trustee, a court may appoint a trustee.
The trustees administer the affairs attendant to the trust. The trust's affairs may include prudently investing the assets of the trust, accounting for and reporting periodically to the beneficiaries, filing required tax returns and other duties. In some cases dependent upon the trust instrument, the trustees must make discretionary decisions as to whether beneficiaries should receive trust assets for their benefit. A trustee may be held personally liable for problems, although fiduciary liability insurance similar to directors and officers liability insurance can be purchased. For example, a trustee could be liable if assets are not properly invested. In addition, a trustee may be liable to its beneficiaries even where the trust has made a profit but consent has not been given.However, in the United States, similar to directors and officers, an exculpatory clause may minimize liability; although this was previously held to be against public policy, this position has changed.
In the United States, the Uniform Trust Code provides for reasonable compensation and reimbursement for trustees subject to review by courts,although trustees may be unpaid. Commercial banks acting as trustees typically charge about 1% of assets under management.
The beneficiaries are beneficial (or 'equitable') owners of the trust property. Either immediately or eventually, the beneficiaries will receive income from the trust property, or they will receive the property itself. The extent of a beneficiary's interest depends on the wording of the trust document. One beneficiary may be entitled to income (for example, interest from a bank account), whereas another may be entitled to the entirety of the trust property when he attains the age of twenty-five years. The settlor has much discretion when creating the trust, subject to some limitations imposed by law.
The use of trusts as a means to inherit substantial wealth may be associated with some negative connotations; some beneficiaries who are able to live comfortably from trust proceeds without having to work a job may be jokingly referred to as "trust fund babies" (regardless of age) or "trustafarians".
Common purposes for trusts include:
Trusts go by many different names, depending on the characteristics or the purpose of the trust. Because trusts often have multiple characteristics or purposes, a single trust might accurately be described in several ways. For example, a living trust is often an express trust, which is also a revocable trust, and might include an incentive trust, and so forth.
Trusts originated in England, and therefore English trusts law has had a significant influence, particularly among common law legal systems such as the United States and the countries of the Commonwealth.
Trust law in civil law jurisdictions, generally including Continental Europe only exists in a limited number of jurisdictions (e.g. Curaçao, Liechtenstein and Sint Maarten). The trust may however be recognized as an instrument of foreign law in conflict of laws cases, for example within the Brussels regime (Europe) and the parties to the Hague Trust Convention. Tax avoidance concerns have historically been one of the reasons that European countries with a civil law system have been reluctant to adopt trusts.
Cyprus legislators enacted the Cyprus International Trusts Law of 2012 with an aim to facilitate the establishment of trusts by non-Cypriot residents. The Cyprus International Trust is based on common law principles however the Cyprus International Trusts Law of 2012 introduces certain conditions and requirements to for the trust to qualify under the same law. These conditions are:
In addition to above the common law principles of certainty must be present.
The Cyprus International Trust Law of 2012 also introduces certain settlor powers which if exercised will not invalidate the trust and or do not need to be inserted in the trust deed for the settlor to exercise them.The powers introduced are:
Cyprus does not limit the duration of an international trust and it may be formed for an unspecified duration.
In accordance with Section 7, a Cyprus International Trust may be formed for one or more of the following purposes:
The law includes specific confidentiality obligations over the trustee, the protector, enforcer or any other person to keep information and details of the trust confidential. This right is waived in the instances that law requires the disclosure of such information or if a judge before which a case is tried in issues a judgment to such effect. Nevertheless, with the changing times, public disclosure of trusts is required in Cyprus.Such public disclosures are required:
For a trust to be validly constituted it must be presented to the commissioner of stamp duty and a one-time payment of Euro 430 is made. The commissioner does not keep a copy of the document.
The regulation of the industry providing company and trust management functions (ASP) has also brought about the requirement to disclose to the regulator the existence of a Cyprus International Trust. Such obligation burdens the trust company and the information disclosed is the following:
For the avoidance of any doubt, the regulator does not require particulars of the Settlor, the Beneficiaries and details of the trusts. Neither does the regulator store in any way the trust deed. On the contrary, they rely on the regulated entity to collect, store and update this information
The Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2007-2018introduced mandatory disclosure requirements in respects to trusts. Generally known as the Cyprus Beneficial Ownership Register. Subject to this the following information will be required to be mandatory disclosed:
The actual implementation of this law still remains to be seen however the requirements above are expressly extracted from The Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law of 2007–2018.
Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) a Trustee and or a Trust may be classified as a Foreign Financial Institution (FFI) requiring registration with the IRS and disclosure of results on a yearly basis.
Under the Common Reporting Standard decree, a trust would in most cases classify as either a Reporting Financial Institution (FI) or a Passive Non-Financial Entity (Passive NFE). If the trust is an FI the trust or the trustee will have an obligation to report to its local tax authority in Cyprus in respects to the reportable accounts.
The income and profits derived within and outside of Cyprus are liable to every possible taxation imposed in Cyprus if the beneficiary is a resident of Cyprus in accordance with the Income Tax Laws of Cyprus.
If the beneficiaries are not Cyprus residents then any income and profit derived from Cypriot sources will be subject to tax.
Relevant to consider is what income is subject to taxation in Cyprus and the none domicile regime applicable in Cyprus.
In many ways trusts in South Africa operate similarly to other common law countries, although the law of South Africa is actually a hybrid of the British common law system and Roman-Dutch law.
In South Africa, in addition to the traditional living trusts and will trusts there is a "bewind trust" (inherited from the Roman-Dutch bewind administered by a bewindhebber) [ citation needed ]in which the beneficiaries own the trust assets while the trustee administers the trust, although this is regarded by modern Dutch law as not actually a trust. Bewind trusts are created as trading vehicles providing trustees with limited liability and certain tax advantages.
In South Africa, minor children cannot inherit assets and in the absence of a trust and assets held in a state institution, the Guardian's Fund, and released to the children in adulthood. Therefore, testamentary (will) trusts often leave assets in a trust for the benefit of these minor children.
There are two types of living trusts in South Africa, namely vested trusts and discretionary trusts. In vested trusts, the benefits of the beneficiaries are set out in the trust deed, whereas in discretionary trusts the trustees have full discretion at all times as to how much and when each beneficiary is to benefit.
Until recently, there were tax advantages to living trusts in South Africa, although most of these advantages have been removed. Protection of assets from creditors is a modern advantage. With notable exceptions, assets held by the trust are not owned by the trustees or the beneficiaries, the creditors of trustees or beneficiaries can have no claim against the trust. Under the Insolvency Act (Act 24 of 1936), assets transferred into a living trust remain at risk from external creditors for 6 months if the previous owner of the assets is solvent at the time of transfer, or 24 months if he/she is insolvent at the time of transfer. After 24 months, creditors have no claim against assets in the trust, although they can attempt to attach the loan account, thereby forcing the trust to sell its assets. Assets can be transferred into the living trust by selling it to the trust (through a loan granted to the trust) or donating cash to it (any natural person can donate R100 000 per year without attracting donations tax; 20% donations tax applies to further donations within the same tax year).
Under South African law living trusts are considered tax payers. Two types of tax apply to living trusts, namely income tax and capital gains tax (CGT). A trust pays income tax at a flat rate of 40% (individuals pay according to income scales, usually less than 20%). The trust's income can, however, be taxed in the hands of either the trust or the beneficiary. A trust pays CGT at the rate of 20% (individuals pay 10%). Trusts do not pay deceased estate tax (although trusts may be required to pay back outstanding loans to a deceased estate, in which the loan amounts are taxable with deceased estate tax).
The taxpayer whose residence has been 'locked' into a trust has now been given another opportunity to take advantage of these CGT exemptions. The Taxation Law Amendment Act of 30 September 2009 commenced on 1 January 2010 and granted a 2-year window period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011, affording a natural person the opportunity to take transfer of the residence with advantage of no transfer duty being payable or CGT consequences. Whilst taxpayers can take advantage of this opening of a window of opportunity, it is not likely that it will ever become available thereafter.
In the United States, state law governs trusts. Trust law is therefore variable from state to state, though many states have adopted the Uniform Trust Code, and broad similarities exist among states' common law of trust as well. These similarities are summarized in the Restatements of the Law, such as the Restatement of Trusts, Third (2003−08). Additionally, as a practical matter, federal law considerations such as federal taxes administered by the Internal Revenue Service may affect the structure and creation of trusts.
In the United States the tax law allows trusts to be taxed as corporations, partnerships, or not at all depending on the circumstances, although trusts may be used for tax avoidance in certain situations. 478 For example, the trust-preferred security is a hybrid (debt and equity) security with favorable tax treatment which is treated as regulatory capital on banks' balance sheets. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act changed this somewhat by not allowing these assets to be a part of (large) banks' regulatory capital. :23:
Living trusts, as opposed to testamentary (will) trusts, may help a trustor avoid probate.Avoiding probate may save costs and maintain privacy and living trusts have become very popular. Probate is potentially costly, and probate records are available to the public while distribution through a trust is private. Both living trusts and wills can also be used to plan for unforeseen circumstances such as incapacity or disability, by giving discretionary powers to the trustee or executor of the will.
Negative aspects of using a living trust as opposed to a will and probate include upfront legal expenses, the expense of trust administration, and a lack of certain safeguards. The cost of the trust may be 1% of the estate per year versus the one-time probate cost of 1 to 4% for probate, which applies whether or not there is a drafted will. Unlike trusts, wills must be signed by two to three witnesses, the number depending on the law of the jurisdiction in which the will is executed. Legal protections that apply to probate but do not automatically apply to trusts include provisions that protect the decedent's assets from mismanagement or embezzlement, such as requirements of bonding, insurance, and itemized accountings of probate assets.
Living trusts generally do not shelter assets from the U.S. federal estate tax. Married couples may, however, effectively double the estate tax exemption amount by setting up the trust with a formula clause.
For a living trust, the grantor may retain some level of control to the trust, such by appointment as protector under the trust instrument. Living trusts also, in practical terms, tend to be driven to large extent by tax considerations. If a living trust fails, the property will usually be held for the grantor/settlor on resulting trusts, which in some notable cases, has had high tax consequences.[ citation needed ]
The greatest and most distinctive achievement performed by Englishmen in the field of jurisprudence is the development from century to century of the trust idea.
Trustee is a legal term which, in its broadest sense, is a synonym for anyone in a position of trust and so can refer to any person who holds property, authority, or a position of trust or responsibility to transfer the title of ownership to the person named as the new owner, in a trust instrument, called a beneficiary. A trustee can also refer to a person who is allowed to do certain tasks but not able to gain income, although that is untrue. Although in the strictest sense of the term a trustee is the holder of property on behalf of a beneficiary, the more expansive sense encompasses persons who serve, for example, on the board of trustees of an institution that operates for a charity, for the benefit of the general public, or a person in the local government.
A fiduciary is a person who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with one or more other parties. Typically, a fiduciary prudently takes care of money or other assets for another person. One party, for example, a corporate trust company or the trust department of a bank, acts in a fiduciary capacity to another party, who, for example, has entrusted funds to the fiduciary for safekeeping or investment. Likewise, financial advisers, financial planners, and asset managers, including managers of pension plans, endowments, and other tax-exempt assets, are considered fiduciaries under applicable statutes and laws. In a fiduciary relationship, one person, in a position of vulnerability, justifiably vests confidence, good faith, reliance, and trust in another whose aid, advice, or protection is sought in some matter. In such a relation good conscience requires the fiduciary to act at all times for the sole benefit and interest of the one who trusts.
A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence.
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person's life, for the management and disposal of that person's estate during the person's life, in the event the person becomes incapacitated and after death. The planning includes the bequest of assets to heirs and may include minimizing gift, estate, generation skipping transfer, and taxes. Estate planning includes planning for incapacity as well as a process of reducing or eliminating uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximizing the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. The ultimate goal of estate planning can only be determined by the specific goals of the estate owner and may be as simple or complex as the owner's wishes and needs directs. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.
A spendthrift trust is a trust that is created for the benefit of a person that gives an independent trustee full authority to make decisions as to how the trust funds may be spent for the benefit of the beneficiary. Creditors of the beneficiary generally cannot reach the funds in the trust, and the funds are not actually under the control of the beneficiary.
In the law of inheritance, wills and trusts, a disclaimer of interest is an attempt by a person to renounce their legal right to benefit from an inheritance or through a trust. "If a trustee disclaims an interest in property that otherwise would have become trust property, the interest does not become trust property."
An asset-protection trust is any form of trust which provides for funds to be held on a discretionary basis. Such trusts are set up in an attempt to avoid or mitigate the effects of taxation, divorce and bankruptcy on the beneficiary. Such trusts are therefore frequently proscribed or limited in their effects by governments and the courts.
An express trust is a trust created "in express terms, and usually in writing, as distinguished from one inferred by the law from the conduct or dealings of the parties." Property is transferred by a person to a transferee, who holds the property for the benefit of one or more persons, called beneficiaries. The trustee may distribute the property, or the income from that property, to the beneficiaries. Express trusts are frequently used in common law jurisdictions as methods of wealth preservation or enhancement.
The law of Bermuda is based on the common law legal system of England and Wales.
The Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Trusts and on their Recognition, or Hague Trust Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law on the Law Applicable to Trusts. It concluded on 1 July 1985, entered into force 1 January 1992, and is as of September 2017 ratified by 14 countries. The Convention uses a harmonised definition of a trust, which is the subject of the convention, and sets Conflict rules for resolving problems in the choice of the applicable law. The key provisions of the Convention are:
An offshore trust is a conventional trust that is formed under the laws of an offshore jurisdiction.
In law a settlor is a person who settles property on trust law for the benefit of beneficiaries. In some legal systems, a settlor is also referred to as a trustor, or occasionally, a grantor or donor. Where the trust is a testamentary trust, the settlor is usually referred to as the testator. The settlor may also be the trustee of the trust or a third party may be the trustee. In the common law of England and Wales, it has been held, controversially, that where a trustee declares an intention to transfer trust property to a trust of which he is one of several trustees, that is a valid settlement notwithstanding the property is not vested in the other trustees.
A testamentary trust is a trust which arises upon the death of the testator, and which is specified in his or her will. A will may contain more than one testamentary trust, and may address all or any portion of the estate.
A trust instrument is an instrument in writing executed by a settlor used to constitute a trust. Trust instruments are generally only used in relation to an inter vivos trust; testamentary trusts are usually created under a will.
A discretionary trust, in the trust law of England, Australia, Canada and other common law jurisdictions, is a trust where the beneficiaries and/or their entitlements to the trust fund are not fixed, but are determined by the criteria set out in the trust instrument by the settlor. It is sometimes referred to as a family trust in Australia or New Zealand. Where the discretionary trust is a testamentary trust, it is common for the settlor to leave a letter of wishes for the trustees to guide them as to the settlor's wishes in the exercise of their discretion. Letters of wishes are not legally binding documents.
In trust law, a beneficiary or cestui que use, a.k.a. cestui que trust, is the person or persons who are entitled to the benefit of any trust arrangement. A beneficiary will normally be a natural person, but it is perfectly possible to have a company as the beneficiary of a trust, and this often happens in sophisticated commercial transaction structures. With the exception of charitable trusts, and some specific anomalous non-charitable purpose trusts, all trusts are required to have ascertainable beneficiaries.
In trust law, a protector is a person appointed under the trust instrument to direct or restrain the trustees in relation to their administration of the trust.
United States trust law is the body of law regulating the legal instrument for holding wealth known as a trust.
Australian trust law is the law of trusts as it is applied in Australia. It is derived from, and largely continues to follow English trust law, as modified by state and federal legislation. A number of unique features of Australian trust law arise from interactions with the Australian systems of company law, family law and taxation.
English trust law concerns the creation and protection of asset funds, which are usually held by one party for another's benefit. Trusts were a creation of the English law of property and obligations, but also share a history with countries across the Commonwealth and the United States. Trusts developed when claimants in property disputes were dissatisfied with the common law courts and petitioned the King for a just and equitable result. On the King's behalf, the Lord Chancellor developed a parallel justice system in the Court of Chancery, commonly referred as equity. Historically, trusts were mostly used where people left money in a will, created family settlements, created charities, or some types of business venture. After the Judicature Act 1873, England's courts of equity and common law were merged, and equitable principles took precedence. Today, trusts play an important role in financial investments, especially in unit trusts and pension trusts, where trustees and fund managers usually invest assets for people who wish to save for retirement. Although people are generally free to write trusts in any way they like, an increasing number of statutes are designed to protect beneficiaries, or regulate the trust relationship, including the Trustee Act 1925, Trustee Investments Act 1961, Recognition of Trusts Act 1987, Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, Trustee Act 2000, Pensions Act 1995, Pensions Act 2004 and the Charities Act 2011.
Constructive trusts in English law are a form of trust created by the English law courts primarily where the defendant has dealt with property in an "unconscionable manner"—but also in other circumstances. The property is held in "constructive trust" for the harmed party, obliging the defendant to look after it. The main factors that lead to a constructive trust are unconscionable dealings with property, profits from unlawful acts, and unauthorised profits by a fiduciary. Where the owner of a property deals with it in a way that denies or impedes the rights of some other person over that property, the courts may order that owner to hold it in constructive trust. Where someone profits from unlawful acts, such as murder, fraud, or bribery, these profits may also be held in constructive trust. The most common of these is bribery, which requires that the person be in a fiduciary office. Certain offices, such as those of trustee and company director, are always fiduciary offices. Courts may recognise others where the circumstances demand it. Where someone in a fiduciary office makes profits from their duties without the authorisation of that office's beneficiaries, a constructive trust may be imposed on those profits; there is a defence where the beneficiaries have authorised such profits. The justification here is that a person in such an office must avoid conflicts of interest, and be held to account should he fail to do so.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Trust law .|