The Hebrew University Association v. Nye
148 Conn. 223, A.2d 641 (1961)
Yahuda and his wife Ethel
owned a large number of rare books. The books were placed in a warehouse
while the Yahudas looked for a University in Jerusalem to give them to.
At some point Mr. Yahuda
The Hebrew University
Association (HUA) held a luncheon in their honor at which Ethel declared
that she was giving the library to HUA.
On other occasions Ethel
repeatedly made statements and took actions to the effect that HUA owned
She never took a tax
deduction on the donation.
Ethel was still cataloging its
contents when she died.
Ethel bequeathed the bulk of
her estate to another Jewish charitable institution. The executor (Nye)
petitioned the court to determine who should get the library.
If the library was owned by
HUA at the time of Ethel's death, then they get it.
If Ethel still owned the
library at the time of her death, then it goes with the rest of her
The Trial Court found for HUA.
The Trial Court found that
the statements made by Ethel at the luncheon amounted to the creation of
The Connecticut Supreme Court
vacated the judgment and ordered a new trial.
The Connecticut Supreme
Court found that no trust had been created.
There was no evidence that
Ethel had ever regarded herself as a trustee or assumed any enforceable
duties with respect to the property.
Ethel's actions were more
consistent with an inter vivos gift
made to HUA without any delivery.
From Property Law, a gift is
only valid when there is an offer, an acceptance, and a delivery. Since
there was no delivery, the library could not be considered to be a fully
The Court said, "A
gift which is imperfect for lack of delivery will not be turned into a
declaration of a trust for no better reason than that it is imperfect
for lack of delivery."
The Court found that it
could be argued that Ethel's actions amounted to constructive delivery of the library, in which case it would be a
valid inter vivos gift.
The court remanded for a new trial to determine if constructive
delivery had occurred.
Btw, upon remand, the Trial
Court found that constructive delivery had indeed occurred, and so HUA got the books in the end.
The basic rule is that you can
create a trust by making an oral declaration. However, there must be
clear intent to create a trust, and
not just give a gift.
You should never assume a
trust has been created unless the donor has manifested an intention to
impose upon themselves enforceable duties of a trust nature.
In order to create a trust
the settlor must charge the trustee with ascertainable duties. It doesn't necessarily matter what
those duties are, but you have to impose upon a trustee some enforceable duties of a trust nature.