It is argued, through the examination of two civil law jurisdictions – France and Italy, that there is room for the trust to be translated – not transplanted – into existing civil law institutions and practice. The extent to which this is the case and the most appropriate model for this introduction will be dependent on the cultural, historical and political background of each such jurisdiction.
Whilst Italy lacks a domestic trust law, it has taken advantage of the Hague Convention to develop a thriving local practice of using foreign law for Italian trusts. This effort, spearheaded by both doctrinal and jurisprudential support, has allowed the development of a consistent framework and the surmounting of the obstacles inherent in the civil law tradition. As a result of this process initiated nearly twenty years ago, these trusts can no longer be said to be ‘foreign.’ A more accurate term would be ‘domesticated’ due to the distinctive features they have developed.
Whereas France has its fiducie, a sui generis institution introduced in 2007, which is structurally a trust in comparative law terms, it is, nonetheless, functionally neutered. Trusts can be based on civil institutions, as the examples of Panama and Quebec show, and it is to be hoped that the French fiducie represents such a first step and will, one day, play a similar role. In any case, recent reforms which have increased its flexibility both structurally and functionally are to be welcomed. In particular the decision, albeit unsuccessful, of the French legislature to introduce a concept of ‘economic ownership’ goes to show just how much the lines are blurring between civilian and common law traditions.
Koessler, James, Is There Room for the Trust in a Civil Law System? The French and Italian Perspectives (March 1, 2012).