What Are The Rights Of a Beneficiary?
The rights of a beneficiary vary and depend on the type of interest they have in the trust, having said this, all beneficiaries are entitled to certain information, such as a copy of the trust deed (if you do not have a copy of the trust deed you can request one from the trustees). If a beneficiary or a group of beneficiaries are absolutely entitled, they may be able to compel the trustees to take certain actions, such as retiring or making payments.
Trusts are always set up for the benefit of people known as beneficiaries, who could have many different types of interest in a trust. When advising beneficiaries, it’s first necessary to establish what their interest is, as well as what other interests are also granted under the trust.
In order 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 carefully consider whether or not 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 at all.
In addition to the trust deed itself, there is also 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, there is information such as conditions of confidentiality and/or restrictions on sub-funds, that 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 or legal advice sought by the trustees, are far less likely to be disclosed to a beneficiary, however this is at the discretion of the trustees if they want to do so.
Actions of the Trustees
Trustees have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and as such, if they are not performing 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, then the beneficiaries may be able to seek redress through the courts.
Where all beneficiaries are identifiable adults with capacity, they can also use statutory powers to remove trustees and compel them to bring a trust to an end. Having said that, this is not the case where there are minors involved or the class of beneficiaries remains open, for example if the beneficiaries include “the remoter issue of the settlor” there could be potential beneficiaries who are not yet born.
Expert trust solicitors
Our team of specialist solicitors have years of experience in successfully handling a range of complex cases in relation to trusts and have the expertise needed to help, advise and guide you no matter what challenge you’re facing.
For more information, visit our trusts page, or if you require any specialist advice or assistance with any matter concerning a trust, please feel free to contact a member of our dedicated trust team on 01202 0525333 or by sending us an email enquiry.
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