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One owning property can create an enforceable trust by a declaration that he holds the property as trustee for the benefit of another person. A trust may be created without notice to or acceptance by any beneficiary or trustee and in the absence of consideration. A settlor may reserve extensive powers over the administration of a trust and may reserve the right to modify or revoke the trust at will. No trust is created unless the settlor presently and unequivocally manifests an intention to impose upon himself enforceable duties of a trust nature. If what has been done falls short of showing the complete establishment of a fiduciary relationship, as where the intent to become a trustee is doubtful because what was said or done is as compatible with an intent to make a future gift as with an intent to hold the legal title to property for the exclusive benefit of another, the proof fails to show more than a promise without consideration.
Plaintiff, Donald Palozie, commenced the present action against the decedent’s estate, which was administered by the defendants, Richard T. Palozie and Joanne Palozie-Weems, by filing an application in Probate Court seeking title and right of possession to the Crane Road property. In the application, the plaintiff claimed that he recently discovered a document entitled “declaration of trust” signed by the decedent, wherein the decedent had declared that she held the Crane Road property in trust for the use and benefit of the plaintiff. After conducting a hearing, the Probate Court denied the plaintiff's application, concluding that the declaration of trust was invalid and unenforceable. The district court affirmed the probate court’s judgment. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly concluded that the declaration of trust executed by his deceased mother was invalid and unenforceable because the decedent had not manifested an unequivocal intent to create a trust and to impose upon herself the enforceable duties of a trustee.
Was the declaration of trust executed by plaintiff’s deceased mother invalid and unenforceable because the decedent had not manifested an unequivocal intent to create a trust and to impose upon herself the enforceable duties of a trustee?
The court concluded that the trust instrument was ambiguous with respect to whether the deceased mother intended to create a trust. Noting that communication of the intent to create a trust and delivery of the trust instrument was not essential to the existence of a trust, the court acknowledged that it was some evidence, though not conclusive, that the property owner had not arrived at a definite intention to create a trust. As such, since the deceased mother never gave the declaration of trust to anyone and never told plaintiff of the same, the court held that the trial court’s finding that the decedent had not arrived at a final and definitive intention to create a trust was amply supported. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.