From the chiming of steel swords through swirls of sand to the rattle of armour in the dry sun, 12th century Christendom was gripped by the Crusades. Brave knights owning entire duchies and modest houses banded together to protect holy pilgrims on their journey to the Levant. However, when they came back, who owned their property?
For several decades after the First Crusade of 1095, many English knights found themselves not only answering but disputing this question against their family, friends and stewards — in whom they placed their property in their care — in a court of law. For several decades, the strict precedence of common law judges’ decisions lamented ‘he who possesses the title deeds owns the property.'
As a result, of the strict formalities of common law, many daring knights returned to England to find themselves poor and homeless; their possessions now in the hands — the lawful hands — of another.
With the advent of equity law at this time, the Lord Chancellor found himself with a new legal tool in the judiciary’s arsenal. That tool was the trust.
In the law now, the distinction between the legal owner entrusted with the property and the beneficiary who would benefit from its eventual use became a much-needed remedy to decades of personal injustice against the crusaders.
So, in the short term, the trustee entrusted with the property and possession of its deeds could enjoy the luxuries of grand estates or modest country houses; whilst, in the long term, the crusading knight could return home in the security that he would keep all of his possessions. A mutual advantage for both parties interests.
Today, the same crusading tool exists for a wide range of property management solutions. From real estate to family savings, trusts are a magnificent instrument to safeguard and make the most out of an individual’s assets.
I implore all pupils of law to learn about the hidden beauty of trust law. For like most old and rare gifts, its age and rarity import ever greater value. A value that will bring advantage to yourself and to those that you serve.
Written By: Christian Pitt
OULS News Reporter