Trust disputes

We advise trustees (both professional and lay) and beneficiaries on a range of trust disputes, including:

  • onshore trust disputes;
  • offshore trust disputes including Channel Island (Jersey and Guernsey), Isle of Man, BVI, Gibraltar and Cayman Island trust disputes;
  • actions to remove trustees;
  • claims for an inventory and account;
  • disputes between trustees;
  • disputes between beneficiaries;
  • claims by or against trusts;
  • queries regarding trust assets; and
  • variation of trusts.

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What is a trust dispute?

A trust dispute is any dispute relating to the administration or validity of a trust. Whether you are involved in a dispute over the value of trust assets, the interpretation of a trust or trust dispute, a trustee dealing with feuding beneficiaries or need to know how to remove a trustee, we can help.

We aim to resolve trust disputes quickly and cost-effectively and have significant experience in dealing with all manner of onshore and offshore trust issues.

Key contact

Roman Kubiak is a Partner and head of the Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates Department at Hugh James. He joined Hugh James in 2012, having previously worked at a top 200 law firm, specialising in inheritance and trust disputes. Roman advises individuals, high street banks, trust companies and professionals in relation to contested will, trust and estate disputes.

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Our experience in trust disputes

Hugh James resolve £120m Jersey-based trust dispute

 

Hugh James advised the beneficiaries of a discretionary trust based in Jersey the assets of which included commercial property and family businesses estimated to be worth £120m in the following actions:

  • claim for an inventory and account;
  • undue influence in relation to letters of wishes prepared by the settlor;
  • challenging the actions of various parties to the trust, including the protector and co-directors; and
  • advising in relation to the validity of various transfer made into trust.

Following mediation and a number of board meetings we were able to resolve the trust dispute without the need to issue court proceedings to the benefit of our client beneficiaries.

Claim to remove trustees, breach of trust and restitution

 

Roman Kubiak and Vlad Macondald-Munteanu act for a beneficiary in a trust dispute seeking removal of the trustees, pursuing a breach of trust claim and seeking restitution (return of assets taken in breach of trust) to the trust.

The defendants were trustees and beneficiaries and it is contended that the trustees have made a number of bad investment decisions, failed to seek proper advice, failed to pursue a solicitor for previous negligence, appointed large sums of capital to the life tenant to the detriment of our client and failed to act in our client’s best interests.

Hugh James advises beneficiaries of offshore trust with London property portfolio

 

Hugh James acted for the beneficiaries of a discretionary trust which had, at various times, altered its proper law between England and Wales and Jersey in relation to claims:

  • to remove the trustees;
  • for breach of trust; and
  • pursuing a complaint to the Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman.

The main asset of the trust was a property in the heart of London valued at £10m.

Following negotiations we were able to conclude matters on terms which ensured the effective running of the trust.

Hugh James defends claim against trustee

 

We represented the trustee of a trust for a child which had arisen following the death of her mother in very tragic circumstances. The action was brought against the trustee on behalf of the child’s father who was incarcerated.

Despite being instructed at the last minute we were able to act quickly in resolving the trust dispute and, ultimately, shielded our client from an adverse costs order whilst also taking steps to seek a civil restraint order to avoid future claims.

Gibraltan trust dispute

 

Roman Kubiak and Eleanor Goodridge have been advising the executor of a will in relation to a claim by a Gibraltan trust company to set aside a property purchase by the executor of an estate asset. In addition, the trust company issued a claim seeking a full inventory and account.

We were able to find serious flaws in the claims and the manner in which the trust company had conducted itself and therefore applied to strike out the claim in the High Court.

Your questions answered

Do you offer free consultations?

 

Yes. We offer a free 20 minute telephone consultation.

Do you offer “no win, no fee” agreements?

 

In many cases we’re able to offer a range of flexible pricing options including “no win, no fee” agreements, fixed fees and deferred payment arrangements depending on each case.

Some cases may also be suitable for “After the Event” insurance funding which provide cover for the cost of disbursements such as court and expert fees as well as protecting you from any potential adverse costs order.

How quickly can your trust solicitors resolve a dispute?

 

Each case is unique and so how quickly your case might be resolved depends on the particular circumstances. However, with one of the largest trust disputes teams in the UK with over 50 years’ experience in trust disputes, and with recognised leaders in the field, we pride ourselves on being able to resolve your claim as quickly as possible.

Are there any time limits for a trust dispute?

 

Time limits vary depending on the specific type of trust dispute. Generally, if any time limits apply then they will tend to start from the date of any breach or knowledge of such breach and so, often, the key is to act quickly.

If you are a trustee you have a strict duty to ensure that you act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and that you do not put the trust assets at risk. As such, time is of the essence.

If you are facing a potential trust dispute then contact our team of trust dispute solicitors today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Our size and experience means that we are able to act quickly.

How can I remove a trustee?

 

Take a look at our 'How to remove a trustee' blog.

What are the grounds for removing a trustee?

 

The grounds to remove a trustee can be many and varied. The following can give automatic grounds to remove a trustee:

  • death;
  • where they have remained outside of the UK for more than 12 months (in the case of onshore trusts or trusts governed by the law of England and Wales); or
  • where, whether through some disability or otherwise, they are unable to act.

Otherwise, the grounds to remove a trustee may include the following:

  • refusal to act;
  • unfit to act, for example by favouring one beneficiary over another, having previously been convicted of fraud, having acted in breach of their duties or contrary to the terms of the trust, having profited from their role (see our blog on self-dealing for more information) or otherwise acted in a way which is contrary to the best interests of the trust and its beneficiaries;
  • unanimous agreement between all relevant parties;
  • where the trustee(s) and beneficiaries simply do not get on; or
  • any other reason which calls into question the trustee’s suitability.

Our team of trust dispute solicitors have significant experience in removing trustees.

What information am I entitled to receive about a trust?

 

Beneficiaries are generally entitled to request and be provided with trust accounts or accounts showing their entitlement and interest. In many cases a beneficiary should also be provided with a copy of the trust deed.

How much information a beneficiary is entitled to will often depend upon their entitlement or “interest” in that trust.

If you have a trustee refusing to provide trust accounts or other information then it is possible to make an application for an inventory and account which requires the trustee to provide an itemised list of all assets in the trust as well as an account of their dealings with those assets and their actions.

Do you deal with offshore trust disputes?

 

Yes. Provided there is some link with England or Wales i.e. because the trustees, beneficiaries or trust assets are based here or the trust documents have elected England and Wales as the proper law then we can usually help.

We are one of the few contested wills teams in the UK with expertise in both onshore and offshore trust disputes.

What is a trust?

 

A trust is a legal concept under which legal title to assets originally belonging to a person (known as the settlor) are transferred to another person, persons or corporation (known as the trustee) for the benefit of a third party (known as the beneficiary).

Trusts are recognised in most common law jurisdictions such as England and Wales and the Channel Islands.

People create trusts for a variety of reasons including to safeguard assets for loved ones, a part of their general tax planning or to achieve certain objectives or purposes.

What is a trustee?

 

A trustee is the person or corporation tasked with administering the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

A trustee therefore has certain powers and duties (often set out in the trust deed and legislation) and must generally strike a fair balance between the beneficiaries whilst also ensuring that they preserve and maximise the value of the trust.

Although trustees will usually hold the legal title to assets, they do so on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Trustees can usually bring and defend legal proceedings on behalf of the trust.

What is a beneficiary?

 

A beneficiary is a person who is entitled to benefit under a trust. They can call on the trustees to take certain steps and to account for their dealings with the trust and its assets.

Where trustees are not acting in accordance with their duties they can be held to account and sued by the beneficiaries.

What is a settlor?

 

A settlor is the person who creates the trust and whose assets generally comprise the trust, at least on its inception.

What is a protector?

 

Protectors are usually seen in offshore and higher value discretionary trusts and are people who are tasked with overseeing the trustees’ administration of the trust and exercise of discretion. They are usually appointed by the settlor.

Protectors may sometimes have the power to add and remove trustees.

I am a trustee faced with a potential claim. Can you help?

 

Yes. With over 50 years’ experience in advising professional and lay trustees we are well placed to help you navigate the minefield of a trust dispute.

More often than not, we can resolve potential claims without the need to go to court. However, if court proceedings or applications for directions are necessary then our primary focus is always to protect you, the client, from any adverse costs order and to provide you with frank, no-nonsense advice.

Quotes

"He is very knowledgeable and dynamic, he has bags of energy and enthusiasm," says an interviewee. One lawyer says he is "very knowledgeable, refreshing to deal with, and very client-focused," and another describes him as "nice to deal with, and a clever lawyer. He does good work and is measured in his dealings."

Chambers and Partners UK

Quotes

Roman Kubiak heads the firm's contested wills, trusts and estates department, advising individuals, banks and trust companies. "He is very knowledgeable and dynamic, he has bags of energy and enthusiasm," says an interviewee. One lawyer says he is "very knowledgeable, refreshing to deal with, and very client-focused".

Chambers and Partners UK

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