At BTMK, we understand that issues with trusts can be intricate and often emotionally charged.

These disagreements can often be over inherited property, claims against trustees, or the need to validate trustee decisions.

Whether you’re a trustee or a beneficiary, our experienced team is here to provide expert legal advice and representation.

Why Trust Disputes Might Arise

Trust disputes can happen for various reasons. They can often stem from common issues such as:

  • Misunderstandings – due to unclear or ambiguous trust terms
  • Conflicting interests – there may be disagreements among beneficiaries
  • Breaches of trust – this could be a breach of fiduciary duty or allegations of mismanagement or fraud by trustees

Disputes may also arise from changes in circumstances that affect the administration of the trust, especially where the exercise of discretion is an issue.

Fiduciary duty refers to the legal obligation that trustees are under. It requires them to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Trust Disputes with Property

One frequent source of trust disputes involves property, especially inherited property.

Disagreements may emerge between beneficiaries and trustees, or among co-owners of the property. 

You might have anticipated inheriting a share of a property, only to find yourself excluded or receiving less than expected. These situations can be emotionally distressing and legally intricate, requiring skilled legal guidance to navigate.

Claims Against Trustees

Beneficiaries may bring claims against trustees if they believe the trustees have failed in their duties or acted improperly. 

Claims against trustees could allege acts such as:

  • Breach of fiduciary duty
  • Negligence
  • Self-dealing (when a fiduciary acts in their own best interest)
  • Failure to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries 

Trust litigation involving claims against trustees requires careful examination of the trust instrument, relevant laws, and the actions of the trustees to determine the validity of the claims and seek appropriate remedies.

Defending a Claim

Trustees facing claims must defend themselves to protect their interests and the integrity of the trust. 

This often involves demonstrating that their actions were consistent with their fiduciary duties and the terms of the trust, or addressing any misunderstandings or misinterpretations that led to the dispute. 

If you are defending against a claim, our specialist team can offer strategic counsel and advocacy. We tailor each case to its unique circumstances.

Removal or Substitution of Trustees

In some instances, beneficiaries may seek the removal or substitution of trustees due to alleged misconduct, incompetence, or irreconcilable conflicts of interest. 

Trust law provides mechanisms for removing trustees under certain conditions, such as court intervention or provisions within the trust instrument itself. 

Our specialist solicitors can guide beneficiaries or trustees through the process of seeking removal or substitution while protecting their respective rights and interests.

Validating Trustee Decisions

Trustees can sometimes face scrutiny over their decisions regarding asset management, distributions, investments, and other matters affecting the trust and its beneficiaries.

Validating trustee decisions involves assessing whether they were made in good faith, with reasonable care, and in accordance with the terms of the trust and applicable law.

Our team can assist trustees in documenting their decisions, responding to challenges, and resolving disputes to ensure the trust’s proper administration and compliance with legal requirements.

Other Points To Consider Regarding Trusts:

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

An alternative method of resolving trust disputes could be mediation or arbitration. These methods can offer a quicker and less adversarial way to resolve conflicts compared to traditional litigation, potentially saving time and costs for all parties involved.

Beneficiary Rights and Protections

It’s essential to understand the rights and protections afforded to beneficiaries under trust law. Beneficiaries have legal rights to information about the trust, including its assets, transactions, and administration. This also includes the right to challenge trustee actions that they believe are improper.

Trust Modification or Termination

Changes in circumstances, such as changes in tax laws or family circumstances, may necessitate modifications to the trust terms. 

Additionally, beneficiaries may seek termination of the trust if its purposes have been fulfilled or if continuation would no longer serve its intended objectives.

Tax Implications

Trust disputes and changes in trusteeship can have tax implications for beneficiaries and trustees. There could be potential tax considerations, such as capital gains tax or inheritance tax implications. Seeking expert guidance can help you make informed decisions and plan effectively for any tax obligations.

Professional Trustees

Some trusts may have professional or corporate trustees appointed to manage trust assets. 

There can be unique considerations involved when dealing with professional trustees, including their fee structures, fiduciary obligations, or potential conflicts of interest. 

It is beneficial to seek legal advice if involved in a dispute with a professional trustee.

Get Support From BTMK

We recognise the complexities and sensitives involved in trust disputes and trustee issues. 

With the guidance of our wills and trusts team and our specialist litigation support, we can provide you with an effective strategy to resolve disputes and protect your rights and interests.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you in navigating trust matters with confidence and clarity.

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