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What is a trust dispute?


Access Legal understands that a trust dispute can be quite sensitive and emotional. Our expert trust dispute solicitors can assist you throughout the whole process from beginning to end reassuring you every step of the way, be it a dispute between trustees and beneficiaries or any other trust challenges.

There may be a disagreement between a beneficiary and executors or trustees about how an estate or trust is being distributed or managed which may be causing a loss to a beneficiary.

Those charged with estate administration (called 'executors' if there was a will or 'administrators' in the case of intestacy) or management trustees can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from their management of the estate. In the case of an estate, this could cover not paying off debts and any inheritance tax due, not settling claims against the estate or failing to identify and correctly distribute assets to the beneficiaries.

A trust can be created by a person for the benefit of family members, for example, a property held on trust, with trustees managing the trust for the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries may have concerns about how the trust is being managed and may wish to remove the trustees and appoint new ones, or be having difficulties obtaining information about trust assets.

A trust could also be created when you help towards the purchase price of a property, or invest money in improving the property, but you are not the legal owner. There could be disagreements about whether you are entitled to any share of the proceeds of sale of the property.

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How do I dispute a trust or claim against it?

It is a serious matter to suggest that a trustee or executor is untrustworthy or acting improperly. You may wish to remove or replace trustees or executors if you can demonstrate that they are dishonest or incompetent and are failing to distribute the assets that you are entitled to or are acting negligently.

You may have asked to see a copy of the will, but been refused. The executor may not 'finalise' the estate and pay you the money you are owed. Perhaps they are not maintaining a property bequeathed as part of the estate to prevent it decreasing in value or are using that property for themselves when they are not permitted to do so.

A dishonest or incompetent executor or trustee can cause huge stress at a time when that pressure is the last thing you need. Many aggrieved beneficiaries feel that executors and trustees cannot be challenged, but there are clear rules relating to the conduct of trustees and executors. Challenging the conduct of an executor or trustee is a complex, but not interminable, procedure. However, the speedy intervention of a solicitor is essential to resolve these disputes.

How long will my trust dispute or claim last?

It is difficult to say how long it will take to resolve any type of dispute. Access Legal will advise you on the evidence you need and identify the value of any claim you may have. We can write to your opponent and try to resolve your dispute without having to go to court. We will suggest mediation where appropriate, as many disputes are resolved with the help of an independent mediator.

This can be quicker and cheaper than going to court, especially if the parties in dispute are prepared to be reasonable and willing to co-operate. However, depending on the complexity of the case, even mediation can take several years to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

If it is not possible to resolve the dispute though mediation, court action will be necessary. How long it takes to get to trial depends on the court timetable that is set to manage your case and given the demands on the court service that could take several weeks or months.

Whatever means is required to resolve your dispute, whether mediation or litigation, we will aim to reach the speediest conclusion possible that preserves and protects your best interests, however long it takes.

If I can dispute a trust or claim against it

Disappointed beneficiaries (those who thought they would inherit something from the will but got nothing or not as much as they were expecting) have up to six months to make a claim after the Grant of Probate is issued using the Inheritance Act 1975, or to make a claim of proprietary estoppel if their dispute concerns the inheritance of property or land they believed they were promised.

However, a disappointed beneficiary may also wish to challenge the conduct or competency of an executor or personal representative or trustee. There may be disputes about how 'mis-management' by the executor, personal representative or trustee in dealing with the estate assets (property, monies, investments etc) is causing a beneficiary to suffer a loss.

More about trust disputes

An executor (where there is a will), administrator (if there is no will) - sometimes referred to as the Personal Representative - is responsible for administering the property and possessions of the deceased in accordance with the terms of their will or the law in cases of intestacy.

If the deceased person made a will, it will have indicated those people or organisations (often their solicitor) they wished to take responsibility for administering their estate (dealing with the distribution of their possessions, monies, assets, etc).

  • If a will has been made, that person or organisation is known as the executor.
  • If there is no will, they are known as the administrator.
  • Both may also be referred to as the personal representative (PR).

A PR is responsible for administering the property and possessions of the deceased in line with their wishes and the law. They have the legal authority to do so and are ultimately liable for any mistakes made. This responsibility lasts for the duration of the administration of the estate and any ongoing trusts that might be created.

A PR can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty. This could cover failing to pay off debts or tax or a failure to identify and correctly distribute assets (including those initially not known about) to the beneficiaries.

A trust can also be created to hold money or investments with trustees being responsible for its management. A dispute could arise if the trustees failed to properly manage the trust, causing a loss.

Our Experts

  • Andrew Bishop solicitor

    Andrew Bishop


    Contentious Probate, Professional Negligence

    Andrew is a Solicitor in the Private Client Department based in Manchester. Andrew qualified in March 2016 and joined Access Legal Solicitors in summer 2017.

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  • Angela Bowman - expert solicitor disputing a will

    Angela Bowman


    Contentious Probate, Professional Negligence

    Angela Bowman is a partner in the Private Client department, based in the Thames Valley (Reading) office. She joined Shoosmiths in February 2018.

    View full profile
  • Mandeep Chima, contesting a will solicitor (Access Legal Solicitors)

    Mandeep Chima


    Contentious Probate, Professional Negligence

    My work involves disputes such as challenges to the validity of a will, claims for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, claims for proprietary estoppel, disputes with executors and professional negligence claims.

    View full profile
  • Rose Donoghue, serious injury lawyer

    Rose Donoghue


    Personal Injury

    I am National Head of the Personal Injury team in Access Legal Solicitors, I have been a personal injury lawyer for over 26 years and I act for individuals who have sustained injuries that have had a significant impact on their quality of life and a lasting impact on their family.

    View full profile
  • Adam Draper Access Legal

    Adam Draper


    Contentious Probate, Professional Negligence

    Adam is a Partner in the Private Client Department based in Manchester. Adam qualified in 2002.

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  • Tara McInnes contentious probate solicitor

    Tara McInnes

    Senior Associate

    Contentious Probate

    I joined Shoosmiths in November 2017 as a senior associate from Gardner Leader Solicitors in Newbury where I was a partner.

    View full profile

Trust Disputes

Access Legal's expert team of solicitors will guide you through the process of resolving your dispute with sympathy and professionalism whether you need general advice or want us to represent you in a dispute.

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