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Unit information: Trusts in 2021/22

Unit name Trusts
Unit code LAWDM0140
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Mr. Rob Cason
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This Unit explores the core principles of the law of Trusts in England and Wales. It will also explore the development of those principles, the policies that have driven their development, and practical operation, as well as the future scope for law reform in the area. The unit will cover the following topics: the nature of and distinctions between different types of trust and between trusts and other, similar, concepts; the creation of express trusts (including certainties and formalities) ; charitable trusts and the doctrine of cy-pres; non-charitable purpose trusts, Re Denley-type trusts; operation and management of trusts; including statutory powers and duties of trustees in relation to investment and delegation; the nature of fiduciary obligations; breach of trust and remedies available at common law and in equity as against both trustees and third parties; the basics of resulting and constructive trusts; the circumstances in which a trust can be varied. The Unit will develop student's skills in common law method (case-law and statutory interpretation), in research (involving both paper and electronic resources), and in multiple-issue problem-solving.

The trust concept has been described as ‘the greatest and most distinctive achievement performed by Englishmen in the field of jurisprudence’ (Maitland, 1936). Although difficult to define – not least because of its flexibility - the trust is of great significance to very many areas of law and modern life, from family law to commercial law, and from land law to insolvency and charities. At the heart of the trust lies the separation of ownership into legal and beneficial ownership, enabling one person (the trustee) to hold property for the benefit of another (the beneficiary) or for certain purposes, with attendant obligations on the trustee and consequences when those are breached. This unit enables you to understand and evaluate the principles of trust law underpinning the creation and operation of trusts and their breach, and see (and question) the myriad ways in which trust principles play a role in wider law, commerce and society. The concept of the trust is fundamental to the law of succession, the law of tax, the law of pensions, and to commercial law in general. It also underpins land law – most domestic property is now held on trust. You will learn about how and why trusts are created, as well as the consequences that flow from the classification of a transaction as a trust rather than as some other legal relationship. You will discover the importance of the law of trusts to charities. You will examine the relationship between the trustees, the legal owners, and the beneficiaries, the equitable owners, and the very specific remedial structure that governs this relationship. You will also deal with situations when trusts are imposed by operation of the law, for example, to prevent fraudulent conduct.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Develop unit-specific knowledge and understanding of the rollercoaster and operation of English trusts law. By the end of the unit a successful student should be able to:

  1. Construct and articulate principles of trusts law, drawing on a range of different sources of material including both primary and secondary legal materials
  2. Critically evaluate the role of trustee in different forms of trust, and the various possible consequences of breach of trust
  3. Analyse and critique the way in which the law responds to particular issues in trusts law, and the coherence of different approaches
  4. Display an awareness of when and why trust law is deployed by those seeking to organise their financial affairs or by the courts in response to people’s conduct
  5. Display an awareness of the role of trusts in commercial transactions
  6. Show an understanding of the defects of the current law and how it might be reformed

By the end of the unit, you should be able to cite any relevant statutory provisions accurately and analyse complex problems, to identify the legal issues raised and identify the applicable legal principles.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Information

2 x summative assessments: 1x coursework and 1 x Timed Open Book Assessment with a specified word count

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. LAWDM0140).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.