Claflin Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

In the U.S. Claflin doctrine prohibits any modification or termination of the trust if such change contravenes the clear intent of the settler. The standard was set in the case Claflin v. Claflin, 20 N.E. 454 (Mass. 1889), where a trust was established for a testator’s son, with principal to be paid to the son at the age of 30. Before attaining 30, the son sued to terminate the trust pointing out that he was the sole beneficiary. The court refused to permit termination on ground that it will violate the intent of the testator. The court held that a testator has a right to dispose of his own property with such restrictions and limitations, not repugnant to law, as he sees fit, and his intentions ought to be carried out unless they contravene some positive rule of law or are against public policy.

Later cases amplified Claflin rule so that even significant changed circumstances would not serve as ground for trust termination. Courts can terminate a testamentary trust only if:

1.All the beneficiaries consent, and

2.Termination would not be contrary to the purposes of the trust.