IDEA Research Seminar - What is a Trust?

Duncan Sheehan will be presenting for approximately half an hour, which will be followed by an informal discussion. All are welcome and there is no need to book.

The trust is an institution of English law that crudely permits a separation of management and benefit of property between a trustee (who manages) and a beneficiary (who takes the benefit). Recently Peter Jaffey has suggested that the trust can be explained via a property dimension, which splits control and benefit and justifies claims against third party unauthorised recipients of trust assets, and an entirely separate obligational dimension based on the trustee’s agreement to distribute and manage the assets in accordance with the trust. Yet Jaffey’s explanation suffers from major flaws. First he attempts to argue that the two dimensions are entirely separate. If so, it is hard to see how we have one thing – one concept or category of law - rather than two. Secondly, he denies that looking at the historical development of the trust can help with a principled account – from a Dworkinian perspective this is at best questionable. The paper attempts to see how the different types of rights that a beneficiary has and the differing underlying justifications for them can be combined in a coherent single morally defensible concept.