The person who creates the trust is the settlor. The person who holds the property for another's benefit is the trustee. The person who is benefited by the trust is the beneficiary, or cestui que trust. The property that comprises the trust is the trust res, corpus, principal, or subject matter. For example, a parent signs over certain stock to a bank to manage for a child, with instructions to give the dividend checks to him each year until he becomes 21 years of age, at which time he is to receive all the stock. The parent is the settlor, the bank is the trustee, the stock is the trust res, and the child is the beneficiary.
A fiduciary relationship exists in the law of trusts whenever the settlor relies on the trustee and places special confidence in her. The trustee must act in GOOD FAITH with strict honesty and due regard to protect and serve the interests of the beneficiaries. The trustee also has a fiduciary relationship with the beneficiaries of the trust.
A trustee takes legal title to the trust res, which means that the trustee's interest in the property appears to be one of complete ownership and possession, but the trustee does not have the right to receive any benefits from the property. The right to benefit from the property, known as equitable title, belongs to the beneficiary.
The terms of the trust are the duties and powers of the trustee and the rights of the beneficiary conferred by the settlor when he created the trust.
State statutes and court decisions govern the law of trusts. The validity of a trust of real property is determined by the law of the state where the property is located. The law of the state of the permanent residence (domicile) of the settlor frequently governs a trust of PERSONAL PROPERTY, but courts also consider a number of factors—such as the intention of the settlor, the state where the settlor lives, the state where the trustee lives, and the location of the trust property—when deciding which state has the greatest interest in regulating the trust property.
As a general rule, personal property can be held in a trust created orally. Express trusts of real property, however, must be in writing to be enforced. When a person creates a trust in his will, the resulting testamentary trust will be valid only if the will itself conforms to the requirements of state law for wills. Some states have adopted all or part of the UNIFORM PROBATE CODE, which governs both wills and testamentary trusts.
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