Trusts and fiduciary duties matter when property is managed by one person for another’s benefit. English trust law concerns the creation and protection of asset funds, which are usually held by one party for another’s benefit. Trusts are usually created by a settlor, who gives assets to one or more trustees who undertake to use the assets held in trust definition for beneficiaries. The same thing, then, is just and equitable, and while both are good the equitable is superior.
King’s authority could impose punishments that deviated from the law. During the 15th century and 16th century, “uses” or “trusts” were also employed to avoid the payment of feudal taxation. If a person died, the law stated a landlord was entitled to money before the land passed to an heir, and the landlord got all of the property under the doctrine of escheat if there were no heirs. Charles Dickens pilloried the Court of Chancery’s arcane and tedious practices, exemplified in his fictional case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. By the late 17th century, it had become an ever more widely held view that equitable rules and the law of trusts varied unpredictably, as the jurist John Selden remarked, according to the size of the “Chancellor’s foot”.
Trust law plays a major role in protecting people’s occupational pensions, in investments like unit trusts, and in determining “equitable” ownership when people buy, and live together in, a home. Over the 20th century, trusts came to be used for multiple purposes beyond the classical role of parcelling out wealthy families’ estates, wills, or charities. First, as more working-class people became more affluent, they began to be able to save for retirement through occupational pensions. In its essence the word “trust” applies to any situation where one person holds property on behalf of another, and the law recognises obligations to use the property for the other’s benefit. The primary situation in which a trust is formed is through the express intentions of a person who “settles” property.
People’s wills and testaments, like William Shakespeare’s will here, often present difficulties in trust law where the meaning of what is intended is not completely clear. Much like a contract, express trusts are usually formed based on the expressed intentions of a person who owns some property to in future have it managed by a trustee, and used for another person’s benefit. Often the courts see cases where people have recently died, and expressed a wish to use property for another person, but have not used legal terminology. In principle, this does not matter.
Although trusts do not, generally, require any formality to be established, formality may be required in order to transfer property the settlor wishes to entrust. Beyond the requirement for a settlor to have truly intended to create a trust, it has been said since at least 1832 that the subject matter of the property, and the people who are to benefit must also be certain. The duty of the Court is to put a fair meaning on the terms used, and not, as was said in one case, to repose on the easy pillow of saying that the whole is void for uncertainty. However, the courts have had difficulty in defining appropriate principles for cases where trusts are declared over property that many people have an interest in. This is especially true where the person who possesses that property has gone insolvent. The final “certainty” the courts require is to know to some reasonable degree who the beneficiaries are to be.