2.1 Equity Jurisdiction for Actions Against Trustees
Actions by beneficiaries against trustees are the exclusive province of Equity: “It is very certain that the supervision of trusts is the province of a court of equity …” Thus, such actions may not be re-characterized as law actions:
“Trusts are, and have been since they were first enforced, within the peculiar province of courts of equity.” 3 A.W. Scott & W.F. Fratcher, The Law of Trusts § 197, at 188 (4th ed. 1988) (Scott). Like the early English courts of law, “modern courts have not permitted the beneficiary of a trust to maintain an action at law for tort against the trustee for breach of trust.” Id. § 197.1, at 189. Consequently, “[w]here the trust estate includes chattels and the trustee deals wrongfully with them, the remedy of the beneficiary is by a suit in equity, and not by an action of trespass, trover, detinue, replevin, or case, or any other action at law.” Id. at 190 (footnote omitted). Professor Bogert succinctly expressed the same concept when he wrote: “In other words equity has original and complete jurisdiction over trusts and will enforce the rights of a beneficiary because they arise out of a trust.” G.G. Bogert & G.T. Bogert, The Law of Trusts and Trustees § 870, at 136 (rev.2d ed. 1995 Repl.Vol.). As stated in Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 197 (1987), the rule is that “[e]xcept as stated in § 198, the remedies of the beneficiary against the trustee are exclusively equitable.” Id. at 433. Those exceptions, not applicable here, arise where the trustee’s duty is immediately and unconditionally to pay money or to transfer a chattel to the beneficiary. Id. at 434.