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Theresa Mills
Theresa Mills
9 Aug 2017

What Are The Rights Of a Beneficiary?

Wills, Trusts & Probate

Trusts are set up for the benefit of people known as beneficiaries. A beneficiary could have many different types of interest in a trust. When advising beneficiaries it is first necessary to establish what their interest is and what other interests are also granted under the trust.

To be able to do this a copy of the trust deed is essential and as such, all beneficiaries are able to request a copy of the trust document, this could be a specific settlement deed or, in the case of a trust where somebody has died, their Will. There is no absolute right to disclosure but there is a legitimate expectation to have the document provided.

Information and copy documents

When considering a request for information from a beneficiary the trustees have to consider whether that beneficiary has a real prospect of benefiting from the trust. If the beneficiary has an immediate right, for example, a right to income for life, then they have an expectation that they will benefit, whereas a discretionary beneficiary may not ever benefit from a trust.

In addition to the trust deed itself there is a reasonable expectation that the following should be released to a beneficiary unless there is a justifiable reason not to do so:

  • Deeds of Appointment and Retirement of Trustees
  • Deeds of Addition to the Trust Fund
  • Variations of the Trust

Trust Accounts should usually be made available to a beneficiary who requests them however conditions of confidentiality and/or restrictions on sub-funds may be redacted if the trustees consider it is in the best interests of the beneficiaries as a whole.

Other documents such as a letter of wishes by the settlor, correspondence between trustees and legal advice sought by the trustees are less likely to be disclosed to a beneficiary but it is at the discretion of the trustees if they do so.

Actions of the Trustees

Trustees have a duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and as such, if they are not preforming their duties in line with the trust deed then the beneficiaries can require them to do so. If a trustee does not remedy a breach of trust the beneficiaries may be able to seek redress through the courts.

Where all beneficiaries are identifiable adults with capacity they can use statutory powers to remove trustees and can also compel the trustees to bring a trust to an end. This is not the case where there are minors or the class of beneficiaries remains open, for example if the beneficiaries include “the remoter issue of the settlor” there could be potential beneficiaries not yet born.

For more information visit our trusts page, or alternatively if you require any advice and assistance with any matter concerning a trust please feel free to contact our dedicated trust team at our Ringwood office by calling 01425 484848 - or send us an email enquiry (trusts@ellisjones.co.uk).

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Theresa Mills
Theresa Mills