Cestui Que Vie: Definition, History, and What It Means for a Trust (2023)

What Is Cestui Que Vie?

Cestui que vie is French for "he who lives". It is a legal term for an individual who is the beneficiary of a trust or an insurance policy, with rights to property and the income and profits that the property provides. A cestui que trust is the person entitled to an equitable, rather than legal, trust in the estate assets.

The concept is also used in modern life and health insurance policies, where cestui que vie is an individual whose life measures the duration of the insurance contract. In these contracts, cestui que vie is known as the policyholder, insured, or policy owner. Thus, while the term refers to the beneficiary of a trust or estate, it often refers to the insured and not the beneficiary of an insurance policy.

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Key Takeaways

  • In French, Cestui que vie means "he who lives."
  • The legal term describes the person who is the beneficiary and has rights to property in an estate.
  • Cestui que vie is often used today in life and health insurance policies, where instead of the beneficiary it refers to the insured.
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History of Cestui Que Vie

Cestui que vie as a legal concept dates to the medieval period, specifically England. During this time, the owners of farms and other properties could be absent for extended periods of time as they traveled, whether for business or religious purposes. It became important to ensure that family members, business partners or tenants could use the property without fear of it being expropriated by feudal lords. While the individual was away, a trustee took care of the land but did not retain legal ownership over the property. The trust often relied on a good faith understanding between the parties.

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In practice, it was often a way to avoid paying taxes by granting land and property to the Church, which was exempt from taxation, while still allowing descendants to reside in and enjoy the estates. Henry VIII, under his advisers Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More, attempted to invalidate cestui que vie trusts, a process that continued under the English Reformation.


The year the British government enacted the Cestui Que Vie Act.

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Cestui Que Vie Is Now a Part of Modern Law

Later, however, after the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 had destroyed London, the British government enacted the Cestui Que Vie Actin 1666, which reinstated the legal concept. After those twin catastrophes, hundreds of thousands of British citizens died or fled. In response, the government took all private property into the trust until the proper heirs or owners could be identified—the cestui que vie. Some parts of the 1666 Act are still the law in the United Kingdom.

The legal concepts behind cestui que vie changed a bit over the centuries in order to reduce fraud and to ensure that property owners couldn’t shift their property into trusts in order to dodge creditors. More recently, laws against property held in perpetuity required that parties named as the beneficiaries in a trust should vest, and thus have an interest in the trust rather than passively receive benefits.

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When a trust is created it is done for the benefit of a specific individual who is identified in the trust document. In a trust, the cestui que trust is the person who has an equitable interest in the trust. The legal title of the trust, however, is given to the trustee. Cestui qui use, or he who uses, is the person for whose benefit the trust is made. During the medieval period, cestui que use arrangements became so common that they were often assumed to be present even when they had not been arranged.


What does cestui que use mean? ›

cestui que use. (pronounced ses-tee kay use or setty kay use) n. an old-fashioned term for a person who benefits from assets held in a trust for the beneficiary's use. The term "beneficiary" is now used instead.

What is a cesta trust? ›

What is Cestui Que Trust? A formal Latin term referring to a beneficiary having an equitable interest in a trust, with the legal title being vested to the trustee.

What is a trust US history simple definition? ›

In general, a trust is a relationship in which one person holds title to property, subject to an obligation to keep or use the property for the benefit of another. A trust is formed under state law.

Is every taxpayer a cestui que trust? ›

466), provides that the board o£ aldermen and the officers and employés of the city are trustees of its property, funds, and effects, every taxpayer is a cestui que trust in respect to such property, and that any co-trustee or cestui que trust may prosecute any action to prevent waste or injury to any property or funds ...

How do you pronounce cestui que trust? ›

n. (properly pronounced ses-tee kay, but lawyers popularly pronounce it setty kay) from old French. 1) an old-fashioned expression for the beneficiary of a trust.

What is a qualified disclaimer in a trust? ›

Key Takeaways. A qualified disclaimer is a part of the U.S. tax code that allows estate assets to pass to a beneficiary without being subject to income tax. Legally, the disclaimer portrays the transfer of assets as if the intended beneficiary never actually received them.

What are the five elements of a valid trust? ›

UTC Requirements The UTC provides that a trust must meet the following requirements (UTC 402): 1) the settlor must have the capacity to create the trust; 2) the settlor must have the intent to create the trust 3) there must be at least one definite beneficiary; 4) there must be duties for the trustee to perform; and 5) ...

What are the 4 types of trust? ›

The four main types are living, testamentary, revocable and irrevocable trusts.

What are the 3 levels of trust? ›

As you read the descriptions, think of a specific relationship you have with a person in your workplace.
  • Level 1: Governance and Rules-Based Trust. ...
  • Level 2: Experience and Confidence-Based Trust. ...
  • Level 3: Established and vulnerability-based trust.
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What is the trust in history? ›

The term trust is often used in a historical sense to refer to monopolies or near-monopolies in the United States during the Second Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and early 20th century.

What best describes a trust? ›

A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Trusts can be arranged in many ways and can specify exactly how and when the assets pass to the beneficiaries.

What is an example of a trust in US history? ›

One example: at one point in its history, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company was a "trust" in which firms once in competition with one another turned over control to a trustee, Rockefeller, so that all would be operated in harmony with one another.

Who holds the real power in a trust the trustee or the beneficiary? ›

The trustee is in charge and as a beneficiary you have no control. This is a common misconception. The trustee is administering the trust on your behalf. If you disagree with anything the trustee does or does not do, they must ultimately to you and the trustee cannot treat you with hostility.

How far back can the IRS audit a trust? ›

The IRS Typically Has Three Years.

On the other hand, if you file late and do not have an extension, the statute runs three years following your actual (late) filing date. There are many exceptions discussed below that give the IRS six years or longer, however.

Does the 7 year rule apply to trusts? ›

Death within 7 years of making a transfer

If you die within 7 years of making a transfer into a trust your estate will have to pay Inheritance Tax at the full amount of 40%. This is instead of the reduced amount of 20% which is payable when the payment is made during your lifetime.

How do you describe a trust in a legal document? ›

A trust is a way of holding and managing property, whereby the person setting up the trust (called the grantor, settlor, or trustor) transfers property to a trustee, who manages the property for the benefit of others (called beneficiaries).

How do you reference a trust in a legal document? ›

When a trustee is acting in the name of the trust, he or she should sign their name followed by either the word 'Trustee' or the short-form 'TTEE'. In general, that's how to sign trust documents as a trustee of a trust.

What makes a trust unenforceable? ›

Some of the most common reasons trusts are invalid include: Legal formalities were not followed when executing the trust instrument. The trust was created or modified through forgery or another type of fraud. The trust maker was not mentally competent when they created or modified the trust.

What is a qualified severance of a trust? ›

(B) Qualified severance For purposes of subparagraph (A)— (i) In general The term “qualified severance” means the division of a single trust and the creation (by any means available under the governing instrument or under local law) of two or more trusts if— (I) the single trust was divided on a fractional basis, and ( ...

What is the difference between a Bypass Trust and a disclaimer trust? ›

A Bypass Trust is mandatory and must be created after the first spouse passes away. A Disclaimer Trust differs because it is voluntary. The surviving spouse can choose to disclaim some or all of the deceased spouse's assets and elect to create the Bypass/Disclaimer Trust.

What two things are usually required for a trust to exist? ›

First of all, there must be assets. Secondly, there must be a person who has created the trust, often referred to as the grantor or the trustor. Another person must be named in order for the trust to be legally effective.

What assets should be held in a trust? ›

From your house to your financial accounts, there are many assets you'll likely want to include in your living trust:
  • Bank accounts. ...
  • Real estate property. ...
  • Insurance policies. ...
  • Stocks, bonds, and other investment assets. ...
  • Tangible personal property. ...
  • Limited liability company (LLCs) ...
  • Cryptocurrency.
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What is the main document of a trust? ›

The most important piece of trust documentation will be the trust deed. This agreement is, essentially, what creates the trust. Outlined within the trust deed will be key pieces of information like what properties or assets will be held within the trust and who the beneficiaries are.

What is the best type of trust to have? ›

What Trust is Best for You? (Top 4 Choices in 2023)
  1. Revocable Trusts. One of the two main types of trust is a revocable trust. ...
  2. Irrevocable Trusts. The other main type of trust is a irrevocable trust. ...
  3. Credit Shelter Trusts. ...
  4. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust.

What are the 4 C's of trust? ›

There are 4 elements that create trust: competence, caring, commitment, consistency.

Do trusts pay taxes? ›

Q: Do trusts have a requirement to file federal income tax returns? A: Trusts must file a Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, for each taxable year where the trust has $600 in income or the trust has a non-resident alien as a beneficiary.

What does c'est que say mean? ›

kes-kə-se. : what is it? : what's that?

What is Qua in legal terms? ›

Definition. Acting in the capacity of. After identifying a person, the word "qua" may be added to signify that the rest of the statement pertains to that person acting in the capacity of whatever title or position comes after "qua."

What is the purpose of adding a trustee exemption clause into the wording of a trust? ›

An exemption clause can protect the trustee from breach of trust claims made against them, with potential financial reimbursement from the trust itself.

What is express common intention constructive trust? ›

The most important form of constructive trust for cohabitants is the so-called 'common intention trust' which arises by operation of law where the parties agree that beneficial ownership should be held in a particular way but do not follow the formalities (for example they do not execute a written declaration of trust) ...

How do you respond to C EST VA? ›

As with English, French people tend to reply to Ça va? with a positive response – Bien, or Bien, merci – much the same way as we would use fine in English.

How do you use C est que? ›

The phrase est-ce que is used to ask a question. Word order stays just the same as it would in an ordinary sentence. Est-ce que comes before the subject, and the verb comes after the subject. So to turn the sentence Tu connais Marie (meaning You know Marie) into a question, all you need to do is to add est-ce que.

How do you use C est qui? ›

Ce que vs Ce qui: The Rule of Thumb

The easiest way to know, if you have to use ce que or ce qui is to look at the word that follows. If the word that follows IS a verb or a reflexive pronoun, then you will use ce qui. If the word that follows IS NOT a verb or a reflexive pronoun, then you will use ce que.

What is status quo in property? ›

Status Quo means to maintain the status/state of the property, or matter in question. If in a Property Suit an order to maintain the Status Quo has been passed, then you can't sell, sublet, lease or do anything with the property. You have to keep the property as it was on the date of passing of the order.

What is an example of qua? ›

Meaning of qua in English

as a particular example of something, or the general idea of something: Qua musician, he lacks skill, but his playing is lively and enthusiastic.

What is a cognizant in law? ›

In law, these terms refer to jurisdiction, or the right of a court to hear a case. Definitions of cognizant. adjective. (sometimes followed by `of') having or showing knowledge or understanding or realization or perception. synonyms: aware, cognisant awake.

What are two mandatory duties of a trustee? ›

The Act now sets out mandatory and default Trustee duties. To act in accordance with the terms of the Trust To act honestly and in good faith. To hold or deal with Trust property, and otherwise act, for the benefit of the beneficiaries or for the permitted purpose.

Can beneficiaries dictate a course of action to the trustee? ›

Beneficiaries can provide fully informed consent to some breaches - notably including the duty of undivided loyalty. However, beneficiaries and co-trustees may not wish to consent and would rather take action against a trustee that has breached a duty.

Can a property be put in trust to avoid Inheritance Tax? ›

If you put things into a trust, provided certain conditions are met, they no longer belong to you. This means that when you die their value normally won't be counted when your Inheritance Tax bill is worked out. Instead, the cash, investments or property belong to the trust.


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