A Will-maker wanted to ensure that every family member would receive equal treatment, so he set up a trust and appointed his two eldest children as Trustees. Despite his clearly-expressed wishes, the Trustees treated the Trust as a private fund – favouring certain siblings (including themselves) and ignoring the others. They claimed that the deceased had given them oral instructions before he died and that distributions were to be made on the basis of need and that the deceased had given the oral instructions that overrode the key terms of the Will. They even forced the recipients to sign confidentiality agreements that required the money to be repaid if the distribution was ever disclosed to anyone.
The excluded beneficiaries knew this was definitely not what their father intended, but were uncertain what they could do about it. When they asked for copies of the Will and the Trust Deed they were curtly rebuffed. And their siblings were unwilling to help – frightened that they would be forced to return money if they did. Eventually one of the children sought our advice and we challenged the Trustees on their behalf.
Faced with removal and possible legal action for breach of trust, the trustees yielded and a settlement was reached.
Our client emerged from the dispute much more confident and assured than she had been when it all began. For years she and others had allowed themselves to be bullied and deceived. She had looked on helplessly as her father’s legacy, painstakingly assembled over a lifetime, was slowly frittered away. Knowing the risks, she had stood up, stuck to her guns and ultimately prevailed.