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Unit information: Trusts in 2020/21

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Unit name Trusts
Unit code LAWD30120
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Imogen Moore
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit covers the core principles of the law of Trusts in England and Wales. It considers: the nature and purpose of a trust and its origins in Equity; trusts and other concepts; different types of trust, including an introduction to purpose trusts, resulting trusts and constructive trusts; the three certainties; formalities for the creation of express trusts; constitution of trusts and imperfect gifts; the position of the beneficiary; the role and nature of trusteeship; trust administration and management, including investment of trust funds and delegation by trustees; the duty of care; fiduciary duties; breach of trust and relief; proprietary remedies and tracing; personal liability of strangers to a trust (recipient and accessory liability).

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.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Recognise and describe different types of trust, identify and explain their core components, and explain and evaluate the requirements for effective creation of express trusts;
  • Explain and evaluate the role and duties of trustees, and the various possible consequences of breach for the trustee and other persons;
  • Construct and articulate principles of trusts law, drawing on a range of different sources of material including both primary and secondary legal materials;
  • Analyse and critique the way in which the law responds to particular issues in trusts law, and the coherence of different approaches;
  • Select and employ relevant statutory provisions and case law to provide advice on legal issues and problems in trusts law.

Teaching details

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

Assessment Details

1 x summative assessment: coursework with a specified word count (100%)

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

Reading and References

There are a great number of textbooks on Trusts available, of differing lengths, and displaying a variety of different styles, approaches and levels of detail. The vast majority of Trusts textbooks are very good, and so much depends on the kind of writing you prefer. It is worth taking a look at some of the available books before purchase (in the book shop, in the library, or online) to find one that best meets your own preferences. Ideally your textbook should both explain the key principles, and encourage you to consider the law critically. With this in mind the main recommended textbooks for this unit are (the latest editions) of:

  • Virgo, The Principles of Equity and Trusts (Oxford, 2018), or
  • Watt, Trusts & Equity (Oxford, 2018), or
  • Webb & Akkouh, Trusts Law (Palgrave, 2017)