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Taking sides

Trustees occupy a position where they must remain impartial but what happens when they have to defend an action brought be a beneficiary?

29 January 2016

The role of a trustee is one laden with responsibilities and often thankless beneficiaries. When advising trustees who are parties in proceedings where beneficiaries are arguing over a trust fund, one usually starts by explaining the need for them to remain neutral and allow the beneficiaries to fight it out. The case of Fielden & ors v Christie-Miller [2015] EWHC 2940 (Ch) helps to demonstrate that neutrality is not always necessary.

In Fielden, Stephen Christie-Miller (a beneficiary) brought a claim regarding the conduct of the trustees. The case concerns the Swyncombe Estate in Oxfordshire, which had been split in two by the late Charles Wakefield Christie-Miller (the settlor) in an effort to mitigate tax. One part was passed to his son, John, and one part was settled on trust (the settlement). John and his wife Kathleen were receiving the income of the settlement and so it was as if appointments for life in the...

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