Where did Trusts Originate?
The modern Anglo-American trust is a unique legal device. In the U.S. we use trusts as methods to hold and convey property, often to heirs as an estate planning device. There are a couple of theories concerning the origin of the trust, with the latest being that the trust may actually be traceable to an Islamic legal construct, the waqf. The Islamic waqf was created by Muslim jurists during the first three centuries of Islam as a charitable device. The waqf and the trust are almost identical institutions in purpose and structure. Both have a trustor, a trustee, and a beneficiary. Both were used historically to circumvent restrictions of ownership and transfer of property. The use of trusts have become an important part of estate planning and real estate transactions in the Western world, while the waqf has experienced a precipitous decline throughout the Islamic world.