Arbitration of Trust Disputes: Two Bodies of Law Collide

96 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2012

See all articles by S.I. Strong

S.I. Strong

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: April 6, 2012


Once considered nothing more than “mere” estate planning devices, trusts play a large and growing role in the international economy, holding trillions of dollars of assets and generating billions of dollars of income each year. However, the rising popularity of both commercial and non-commercial trusts has led to an explosion in hostile trust litigation, leading settlors and trustees to search for new and less expensive ways to resolve trust-related disputes.

One possible solution involves use of a mandatory arbitration provision in the trust itself. However, the unique, multiparty nature of trust disputes often makes this sort of arbitration highly controversial. Several U.S. states have taken diametrically opposed positions on mandatory trust arbitration, although the vast majority of jurisdictions have not yet addressed this matter.

This Article considers the various issues that arise when two separate bodies of law – trust law and arbitration law – collide, using recent developments in the field of international commercial arbitration to address some of the more intransigent problems facing trust arbitration. The Article focuses on five areas of concern: the potential for impermissible ouster of the courts, the operability and effectiveness of the arbitration provision, the extent to which the arbitration provision is binding on the party against whom arbitration is asserted, proper representation of parties and arbitrability. In so doing, this Article introduces a number of new judicial decisions not previously considered in the scholarly literature and brings using a uniquely comparative and international perspective to the debate regarding the jurisprudential propriety of mandatory trust arbitration.

Keywords: trusts, trust law, trust and estate, arbitration, international commercial arbitration, ADR, Federal Arbitration Act (FAA)

Suggested Citation

Strong, S.I., Arbitration of Trust Disputes: Two Bodies of Law Collide (April 6, 2012). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 45, 2012, University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-08, Available at SSRN:

S.I. Strong (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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