Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Others v Headley and Another: ChD 28 Jul 2016

Beneficiaries’ right to information from estate

The claimant charities sought payment of interests under the will following the dropping of two life interests. They now requested various documents forming accounts of the estate.
Held: The charities were entitled to some but not to all of the documents sought, including accounts of capital and lists of investments, and the trustee’s fees insofar as they impacted on capital. They were not generally entitled to matters relating to income. They were allowed to see the documents underlying the trust and to be informed as to the history of the identities of the trustees and the status of life interest holders.
As to costs, the trustees had failed to engage properly at all with what were proper requests, and the claimant charities should be entitled to their costs. The claimants also sought an order disallowing the trustees an indemnity from the estate, and ‘In my judgment, notwithstanding the lack of participation or explanation on behalf of the Defendants, it is clear that the Second Defendant in failing to account to the Claimants over so many years acted for a benefit other than that of the estate, and in failing to take part in these proceedings at all acted unreasonably. I have no hesitation in saying that any costs incurred by the Second Defendant in the context of these proceedings, including the costs which I have ordered him to pay to the Claimants, were not ‘properly incurred’ within s 31(1) and CPR rule PD46 para 1.1, and hence he is not entitled to be reimbursed out of the trust fund in respect of them.’
Master Matthews said: ‘Every beneficiary is entitled to see the trust accounts, whether his interest is in possession or not’, but ‘There is some danger of misunderstanding here. When the books and cases talk about beneficiaries ‘entitlements to accounts’ or to trustees being ‘ready with their accounts’ they are not generally referring to annual financial statements such as limited companies and others carrying on business (and indeed some large trusts) commonly produced in the form of balance sheets and profit and loss accounts, usually through accountants, and – in the case of limited companies – filed at Companies House. Instead they are referring to the very notion of accounting itself. Trustees must be ready to account to their beneficiaries for what they have done with the trust assets. This may be done with formal financial statements, or with less formal documents, or indeed none at all. It is no answer for trustees to say that formal financial statements have not yet been produced by the trustees’ accountants.’

Master Matthews
[2016] EWHC 1948 (Ch)
England and Wales
CitedRe Cowin 1886
. .
CitedIn re Tillott ChD 1892
The plaintiff was entitled under a will trust to a one twelfth share in the capital of the residue, contingently on the death of his mother, who was a life tenant. The residue included Bank of England Consols. He had already obtained from the court . .
CitedIn re Dartnall CA 1895
. .
CitedNestle v National Westminster Bank ChD 1988
The plaintiff was the remainder beneficiary under the will trust of her grandfather, who died in 1922. The trust fund was then worth about andpound;50,000. The last outstanding life interest under the trust was that of her father John, who died in . .
CitedD v United Kingdom ECHR 1997
In the circumstances of the case, where the applicant was in the advanced stage of a terminal illness (AIDS), to implement a decision by the respondent to remove the appellant to St Kitts in the West Indies would be a violation of his rights under . .
CitedArmitage v Nurse; etc CA 19-Mar-1997
A clause in a trust deed may validly excuse trustees from personal liability for even gross negligence. The trustee was exempted from liability for loss or damage ‘unless such loss or damage shall be caused by his own actual fraud’.
Held: The . .
CitedVadim Schmidt v Rosewood Trust Limited PC 27-Mar-2003
PC (Isle of Man) The petitioner sought disclosure of trust documents, as a beneficiary. Disclosure had been refused as he had not been a named beneficiary.
Held: Times had moved on, and trust documents had . .
CitedO’Rourke v Darbishire HL 1920
Sir Joseph Whitworth had died in 1887. In 1884 he had made a will appointing three executors and leaving his residuary estate to charity. By a codicil made in 1885 he altered his will to leave his ultimate residue to his executors for their own . .
CitedBurrows v Walls 10-Mar-1855
A testator, by his will, gave the residue of his property to three trustees, whom he appointed executors, upon trust to sell and invest the same and to pay the income thereof to his widow for life, and after her decease, to his children, who were . .
CitedO’Rourke v Darbishire HL 1920
Sir Joseph Whitworth had died in 1887. In 1884 he had made a will appointing three executors and leaving his residuary estate to charity. By a codicil made in 1885 he altered his will to leave his ultimate residue to his executors for their own . .
CitedMurphy v Murphy ChD 2-May-1998
Where a plaintiff could show that he might have some potential interest under a discretionary trust, the settlor could be obliged by the court to disclose the names and addresses of the settlement trustees. . .
CitedBrittlebank v Goodwin 1868
A trustee is bound to inform a beneficiary, who, on attaining majority is entitled to share in a trust fund, of that interest . .
CitedHeugh v Scard CA 1875
Sir George Jessel MR said: ‘In certain cases of mere neglect or refusal to furnish accounts, when the neglect is very gross or the refusal wholly indefensible, I reserve to myself the right of making the executor or trustee pay the costs of . .
CitedIn Re Skinner ChD 1904
A beneficiary of a will trust brought an action for an account, having had little or no accounting from the executors and trustees (one a professional solicitor, entitled to charge) since the testator died more than two years before the action was . .
CitedBlades v Isaac and Another ChD 21-Mar-2016
Claim by beneficiary under discretionary trust.
Held: A trustee’s wrongful failure to provide information does not necessarily justify an adverse costs order. . .

Cited by:
CitedHenchley and Others v Thompson ChD 16-Feb-2017
The Claimants sought an order directing the Defendant to provide a full account of his dealings with the assets of the two trusts as a trustee or as a de facto trustee.
Held: The court has a discretion whether or not to make an order for an . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Trusts, Costs

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.567848