Arbitration Clause In A Trust Document Not Enforceable
In Rachal v. Reitz, a beneficiary sued a trustee for failing to provide an accounting and otherwise breaching fiduciary duties. 347 S.W.3d 305 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2011, pet. filed). The trustee filed a motion to compel arbitration of those claims due to an arbitration provision in the trust instrument. After the trial court denied that motion, the trustee appealed. The court of appeals affirmed. The court held that arbitration is a matter of contract law, and that the trustee had the burden to establish the existence of an enforceable arbitration agreement. The court noted that it was undisputed that neither the trustee or the beneficiary signed the trust document, and that the trust document solely expresses the settlor’s intent. The court noted: “Rachal did not establish how the settlor's expression of intent satisfied all of the required elements of a contract or how this expression of the settlor's intent transformed the trust provision into an agreement to arbitrate between Rachal and Reitz.” Id. at 309-10. Moreover, whether a provision stating the settlor's intent that disputes involving the trust be resolved by arbitration is enforceable as in a contract was an issue of first impression in Texas. The court of appeals noted that only two jurisdictions in the country have considered a similar issue, and both had concluded that a trust is not a contract and that a beneficiary of a trust cannot be compelled to arbitrate disputes arising under the trust.