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How To Deal With A Dodgy Trustee

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

One of the biggest legal frustrations is if you are a beneficiary of a trust and find yourself dealing with a trustee who is acting with impunity and on the face of it illegally e.g no disclosure of information, giving general impression they view you with contempt particularly if you ask perfectly simple questions which they view as some kind of intrusion.

This causes immense upset not least of which due to the fact that trusts can last for a long time and the legal document and indeed the legal position can appear complex. What to do?

Before you do anything, look at the Trust instrument if you can get hold of it. In particular, you want to look at what rights and obligations the trust instrument gives and/or what legislation is referred to in the Trust as this will be useful in influencing legal strategy and which laws are relevant.

For instance, many trusts provide for no fewer than two trustees with power to appoint and remove trustees and some trusts extend that power to beneficiaries acting unanimously. With respect to legislation, trustees can also be removed without the court’s intervention by fellow trustees if one or more of a number of conditions is met.

These conditions are set out in s.36 Trustee Act 1925 which is often a key piece of legislation. If specific legislation is referred to in the Trust this crystallises legal rights.

If you do decide to communicate with the Trustee(and frankly if litigation is on the horizon) then you should have legal advice, the key is to communicate in a clear way and putting the Trustee under pressure to answer relevant questions.

What you are looking to establish is a series of useful correspondence so if the matter goes to Court you are armed with a paper trail which will persuade the Judge.

You are seeking to be focused on long term objectives which are brutally defined here :  establishing stupid/evasive/non answers from the Trustee. By default you emerge in a positive light. 

In terms of form of communication try to keep written communication succinct and calm in style which may be at variance to how you feel. From experience one of the biggest errors made of lawyers and litigants in person is their inability to convey points in a simple manner but also to ask the right questions.

Please do not fall for this trap.