Massachusetts Agencies

Death of Sole Trustee

Trusts and Trustees

This is said in Fratcher, Scott on Trusts, Little Brown and Company (Fourth Edition, 1987), §104:

[I]n the absence of a statute otherwise providing, it has been held that the legal title to real property in trust passes to the heirs of the trustee, and personal property held in trust vests in his personal representative. However, the heirs or personal representatives are not entitled to administer the trust, but merely hold title to the property pending the appointment of a new trustee by the court.

The section cites Harlow Cowdrey, 109 Mass. 183 (1872); Walsh v. Walsh, 116 Mass. 377, 17 Am.Rep. 162 (1874); Storer v. Coggan, 260 Mass. 515, 157 N.E. 632 (1927); Estey v. Gardner, 291 Mass. 303, 197 N.E. 72 (1935).

This rule is an application of the canon that the law will not permit a trust to fail for lack of a trustee.

A similar result occurs where the trustee has died testate. His or her devisees (or personal representatives) would hold title, waiting for the appointment of a new trustee. Id, §105.