11 August 2022 | Case Study | Article by Oliver Rees
Who are McClures Solicitors?
McClure Solicitors were a firm of solicitors based in Glasgow who helped set up thousands of Family Protection Trusts and / or Asset Protection Trusts. McClure Solicitors subsequently went into administration on 29 April 2021 and were subsequently acquired by Jones Whyte LLP.
Where is Shirley Houlihan?
Shirley Houlihan was formerly employed by McClure Solicitors as a solicitor before being found guilty of professional misconduct in 2017. It is reported that Shirley Houlihan was appointed as a trustee of some 8,000 Family Protection Trusts during her time at McClure Solicitors, alongside other professional trustees. Since parting ways with McClure Solicitors, Shirley Houlihan remains appointed as trustee of these trusts, but a number of people have faced difficulties with engaging with her to deal with any of the administrative matters arising from the trust (including to be removed from the trust as trustee).
What are Family Protection Trusts?
Family Protection Trusts are trusts set up by people, referred to in trust deeds as the “settlor”, and typically hold the family home and may hold other financial assets. They are designed to ringfence those assets against potential risks that may arise in the future, such as inheritance tax, means testing of benefits and care fees, bankruptcy, mental incapacity and divorce.
This is where the ‘protection’ element of the name comes from. The trustees appointed by the settlor are then the custodians of those trust assets.
These trusts were particularly popular with individuals and couples planning ahead to try to secure the family home from being considered for care home fees.
Family Protection Trusts are often discretionary in nature, meaning that no single beneficiary is “entitled” to any of the assets held within it. Instead, the trust appoints a “pool” of potential beneficiaries, and it is at the discretion of the trustees as to how any trust assets are appointed out and to whom. You may expect to see the settlor’s spouse as well as classes of children and grandchildren included as potential beneficiaries alongside the settlor. The settlor may also retain an interest in the trust, for instance by retaining a right to live in the property.
What issues arise with the McClures trusts?
A number of clients have reported experiencing extreme difficulties in obtaining information about their trusts. For those trusts where either Shirley Houlihan and / or any other former employees of McClure Solicitors are appointed as trustees of trusts which include a property, difficulties can arise when looking to sell the property (whether immediately or in the future). As a result of being a trustee, Shirley Houlihan’s and / or any other trustee’s name will often be recorded on the register for the property at the Land Registry. This means that it is not possible to sell the property without their consent.
You may have found yourself in a position where a family member has passed away and you have become aware that they had a trust set up by McClure Solicitors appointing Shirley Houlihan and / or other employees as trustees and are unsure of the next steps to carry out. Similarly, you may wish to take precautionary steps to avoid leaving your loved ones in a similar situation after your own death should you have your own trust arrangements in place.
The news of McClure Solicitors going into administration has incited some worry among those individuals who had trusts set up by the firm, offering a natural opportunity to reflect on the current trust arrangements and whether any changes ought to be made, such as retiring the current trustees in favour of new trustees and reviewing whether the trust remains fit for purpose.
How we can help
We are a team of specialist lawyers who deal with resolving trust issues. If you, a family member or friend has had a trust set up with McClure Solicitors, please contact us to see how we can help.
We can offer an initial review of your trust to advise you on the best way to achieve your goals. Please note that while we are able to offer advice in respect of any trusts set up by McClure Solicitors, we are not associated with either McClure Solicitors or Jones Whyte LLP and do not hold their files.
The full range of services our firm can offer means that we can then continue to assist you with the preparation of any legal documents that may be required to effect the changes you wish to make (e.g. if you wish to retire any trustees in favour of new trustees it will be necessary to prepare a deed of retirement and appointment of trustees) as well as to deal with any conveyancing work that may arise as a result of any property that may form part of the trust.
We recently assisted a family who were looking to sell their family home which was tied up in a Family Protection Trust, of which Shirley Houlihan was a trustee. They had asked Shirley to help with the sale but she was unwilling to help. They then asked Shirley to retire as trustee but she refused unless they paid her a fee. It was at this point that they contacted us for help. We successfully liaised with Shirley Houlihan to have her removed as a trustee and appoint new trustees in her place. An application to the Land Registry was prepared to update the property title to remove Shirley Houlihan’s name and replace it with those of the new trustees. From here, the new trustees were able to proceed with the sale of the property without any further involvement from Shirley Houlihan.
Get in touch using the form below if you have a trust prepared by McClure Solicitors and would like a free and independent review your trust documents.
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