This page provides links to sources of U.S. trust law for those interested in learning more about estate planning trusts and trust administration. These trust law references are meant to be informative, but should not be used as a replacement for guidance from an attorney.
In reviewing these sources of law, it is important to understand not all sources of trust law carry equal weight. Not all sources are binding on a court with jurisdiction of a particular trust dispute. Some sources of law are binding authority and must be followed by a court. For example, a previously issued decision by a higher court is considered binding authority on a lower court beneath a higher court in the same heirarchy. Other sources of law, such as the Restatements, are considered persuasive only, meaning it is not mandatory a court follow them.
A discussion of primary versus secondary sources of law, and which sources are binding or merely persuasive, is outside the scope of this article. If you find a source of law you believe is directly on point regarding your issue, you need to determine whether that source is binding or merely persuasive authority.Review the sources of trust law listed on this page to learn more about the law applicable to estate planning trusts, legal disputes involving trust beneficiaries, what standards apply to a trustee's conduct in administering a trust, and other legal matters involving trusts. For an overview, see our page
for trustees. Before taking any action that may affect a trust, an heir or a beneficiary, consult an attorney.
Hornbooks and Legal Treatises on Trusts
One of the best sources of trust law is common law. For a broad overview of U.S. common law on trusts, review the book, The Law of Trusts, by George Bogert, Dallin Oaks, H. Hansen, and Stanley Neeleman. The 9th edition of this casebook includes information on decanting trusts and trust protectors. To understand the law applicable to trusts, you may want to learn about trust law the way lawyers do, by reading hornbooks and treatises. This casebook is a good starting point. For further reading on the law of trusts, see the list on our
Books for Trustees page.
Trust Law Books
The following books contain more information on trust law in the United States.Contemporary Issues in Wills, Trusts, and Estates by Lucy Allen Marsh
Uniform Trust Code
Information on the Uniform Trust Code, including the status of which U.S. states have enacted it as state law, is available from the Uniform Law Commission. As of July 31, 2017, approximately 31 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Trust Code.
If you are trying to find the law on a particular trust or estate planning issue, you will probably see frequent citations to Restatements of the Law published by The American Law Institute.
Uniform Prudent Investor Act
The Uniform Prudent Investor Act may be of interest to trustees administering a trust as well as beneficiaries of a trust. Information on the Uniform Prudent Investor Act, including the status of which U.S. states have adopted it as state law, is available on the
Uniform Law Commission website.
State Statutes on Trusts and Estates
The legislature of each state adopts statutes that codify the law applicable to trusts in that state. Visit the website of your state legislature to find state codes published online. Review your state trust code, state probate code, and related statutes for information. A list is available on our state laws page.It is necessary to review probate statutes as well as those dealing with wills, trusts, and estates, because the law applicable to trusts is sometimes set forth in probate statutes.
Trust Law Journals
The following is a list of highly regarded law journals that provide analysis of current issues affecting estate planning trusts, trustors or grantors, trustees, heirs and beneficiaries.The Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal published by the Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law of the American Bar Association with the assistance of the University of South Carolina School of Law.Trusts & Estates, a peer review journal for wealth management professionals.Updated August 26, 2017.