Duties and Liabilities of Trustees

There has been significant case law in recent years regarding the duties and liabilities of trustees when faced with decisions regarding whether to sell or retain land, incur expenditure on repairs or to take legal action (Brudenell-Bruce v Moore [2014], Jeffrey v Gretton [2011], Cotton v Earl of Cardigan [2014] and Page v West [2012])

Notably, in Brudenell-Bruce v Moore [2014] a beneficiary with a 49% share in the trust was unhappy with how the trustees had managed the trust’s assets. This beneficiary brought a number of claims against the trustees for allowing a building (forming part of the trust’s assets) to fall into disrepair, failing to re-let a property and allowing a non-beneficiary of the trust to live rent free in one of the properties. Both trustees were found to be in breach of trust, with one trustee ordered to repay the remuneration he had received as trustee and removed as trustee.

In Jeffrey v Gretton [2011] we were reminded that trustees are held to the standard to be expected of a reasonable, prudent man of business, meaning they need to review trust investments and to seek professional advice if they are unsure on whether to sell trust assets (e.g. land or property).

It is a trustee’s paramount duty to generally provide the greatest financial benefits for present and future beneficiaries, but, as case law shows, it is not always easy to know how best to do this and proper advice from reputable experts is essential.

If you feel you would benefit from guidance, as a beneficiary or trustee, please contact the Private Client department at Stone Rowe Brewer LLP on 0208 891 6141 or by email at a.spall@srb.co.uk.