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Law School Case Brief

Wescott v. First & Citizens Nat'l Bank - 227 N.C. 39, 40 S.E.2d 461 (1946)


An express trust is defined as a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, subjecting the person by whom the property is held to equitable duties to deal with the property for the benefit of another person, which arises as a result of a manifestation of an intention to create it. The term signifies the relationship resulting from the equitable ownership of property in one person entitling him to certain duties on the part of another person holding the legal title. To constitute this relationship there must be a transfer of the title by the donor or settler for the benefit of another. The gift must be executed rather than executory upon a contingency.


Ulysses C. Robbins was a sergeant in the United States Army serving in 1945 in Italy in a Quartermaster Truck Company. While in Italy, he wrote letters to the defendant bank indicating that he wished to establish an account so that he could make periodic deposits thereto. He instructed the bank that he wanted to be the only person entitled to the funds on deposit during his lifetime; however, if he were to die, then he stated that after a period of five years, he wanted the funds to go to his grandfather, Ulysses Wescott. The soldier made several deposits to the account prior to his death in Italy. After such death, the grandfather initiated an action to declare his entitlement to the funds on deposit, and the trial court ruled in his favor. The bank appealed.


Was an express trust established in favor of the grandfather with respect to the deposits made in defendant bank by Robbins?




The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding that neither of the soldier's letters were offered or proven in the manner and form prescribed by statutes so as to constitute a valid disposition of the property to take effect after his death. The Court further held that the letters did not create an express trust in favor of the grandfather. The Court noted that there was no evidence of a transfer or assignment of a present beneficial interest in the fund.

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