All "Trusts" Not Created Equal


The Descendants movie posterMusings from our executive director, Dale B. Bonar, Ph.D: As I write this the Oscar Awards are upon us and “The Descendants”, a movie about ownership and responsibility of significant family lands in Hawai‘i, is up for Best Picture. In a nutshell, the movie is about family conflicts in determining the best disposition of the lands as the fictional “King Family Trust” prepares to disperse its assets.

Since the movie’s release, several folks have expressed concern to me over something they learned from the movie, that there is a “Rule Against Perpetuity” stating that  “trusts” must disperse their assets after a set time (typically within 21 years after the death of the last named beneficiary).

Well then, how can a Land Trust claim to protect land “in perpetuity”? Because we can.

The answer is straightforward: Land Trusts are not “that” kind of trust.  By virtue of being a charitable nonprofit, there are both federal and state statutes which allow Land Trusts to hold land assets (both fee interests and conservation easements) permanently.  And, in the unlikely event a Land Trust could not effectively oversee its land assets, there are provisions in place to assure all such assets would be assigned to appropriate entities that would continue to protect the conservation values.

So rest assured, while not all trusts are created equal, the Land Trust is yours in perpetuity.