Marley and 11 Others v Mutual Security Merchant Bank and Trust Co Ltd Co: PC 15 Oct 1990

BANKING – EQUITY, TRUSTS, PROBATE ADMINISTRATOR’S POWERS OF INVESTMENT Bank as sole administrator cannot invest estate funds in its own deposits in the absence of express sanction in the trust instrument.
Lord Oliver of Aylmerton said: ‘A trustee who is in genuine doubt about the propriety of any contemplated course of action in the exercise of his fiduciary duties and discretions is always entitled to seek proper professional advice and, if so advised, to protect his position by seeking the guidance of the court.’
He also said: ‘The question whether the trustee has demonstrated that the contract submitted for approval is in the best interests of the beneficiaries reduces, in such a case as this, to whether the trustee can satisfy the court that it has taken all the necessary steps to obtain the best price that would be taken by a reasonably diligent professional trustee. The question may equally well be expressed as whether the trustee has shown that it has fully discharged its duty. That question may appear to be very similar to the question whether to enter into the contract without taking further steps and without seeking the directions of the court would justify an action by the beneficiaries for misconduct justifying the removal of the trustee. Nevertheless there is an essential distinction in that, in such an action, the beneficiaries would be required to assume the positive burden of demonstrating a breach of fiduciary duty. A failure to do so does not demonstrate the converse, namely that the transaction proposed, because not proved to be a breach of fiduciary duty, is therefore one which is in the interest of the beneficiaries’ . . and ‘In the Court of Appeal, Rowe P regarded it as doubtful whether the respondent, having entered into the conditional contract, could even investigate an alternative offer, but regarded that offer in any event as unworthy of serious consideration because the respondent had no knowledge of the financial stability of the proposed purchaser and because, in postponing conclusion of the conditional contract whilst the matter was investigated, the respondent risked losing the ‘bird in the hand’. . .
What the Court of Appeal appears to have overlooked entirely was that, having regard to the course which it was proposed to take as regards the obviously unsatisfactory features of the conditional contract – that is to say the treatment of moneys falling due to the estate up to the closing date and in the interest-free postponement of a substantial part of the consideration – the ‘bird in the hand’ argument ceased to have any validity at all, for the effect of the order proposed and finally made was that the respondent had, in any event, to reject the conditional contract as it stood and to negotiate fresh terms with the purchaser if it proved willing to consider them.’
Lord Oliver of Aylmerton
[1991] 3 All ER 198, [1990] UKPC 44
Trustee Act 1956 66
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedJohn Weth and Others v Her Majesty’s Attorney General and Others CA 23-Feb-2001
A charitable trust had been established. Protracted disputes had taken place, and the burden of the costs required to be apportioned. The financial practices of the charity had been informal leading to confusion, and dissension. An intervention by . .
Cited3 Individual Present Professional Trustees of 2 Trusts v an Infant Prospective Beneficiary of One Trust and others ChD 25-Jul-2007
The parties challenged under the 198 Act the right of trustees to seek a Beddoe order protecting themselves against an award of costs. . .
See AlsoMarley and Others v Mutual Security Merchant Bank and Trust Co Ltd Co PC 2-Feb-1995
(Jamaica) . .

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Updated: 05 March 2021; Ref: scu.429845