Trustees Appointment and Removal Cases

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In re Stoneham Settlement Trusts [1953] Ch 59

Facts: The trustee of the trust had been abroad for over 12 months and was unwilling to resign

Held: The court held the other trustees could force his removal and he (the removed trustee) could play no part in appointing his successor

  • Danckwerts: ”Stoneham, as it seems to me, is a person who can be removed under the statutory power whether he agrees or not. It seems to me that the words of section 36(1) are plain in that respect”

Isaac v Isaac [2005] EWHC 435 (Ch)

Facts: The Managing Director (Isaac) of company was a shareholder himself and trustee of a family trust, which also had shares in the company. Travis Perkins looked to buy the company and the beneficiaries were keen for this to happen as it would allow them access to a yearly dividend (i.e. an income from the trust). However, Isaac scuppered the deal by voting his own shares against the deal. The beneficiaries sued Isaac saying he is obliged to act in best interest of the beneficiaries so should have voted in their favour

Held: The court disagreed, holding he could deal with his own property for his own benefit → Although there is a conflict of interest, it is a declared conflict of interest which is okay

Letterstedt v Broers [1881-85] All ER Rep 882

Facts: The beneficiaries of a trust made allegations there had been misconduct by the trustees of that trust

Held: The court could not find any misconduct by the trustees but the dispute had affected the functioning of the trust, so ordered the trustees’ removal. The court produced some guidance about when a trustee can be removed:

  1. The court’s main guide is the welfare of the beneficiaries.
  2. In cases of positive misconduct the court will have no difficulty in removing trustees who have abused their trust.
  3. Where trustees are merely incompetent that is not enough to remove them; trustees must breach the confidence that comes with a fiduciary relationship
  4. Removal of a trustee will be appropriate when the continuance of the trustee would prevent the trust being properly executed
  5. Hostility between trustees and beneficiaries is not of itself a reason for the removal of trustees – it must go beyond this (as in this case)

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Re Wrightson: Wrightson v Cooke [1908] 1 Ch 789

Facts: In this case, the trustees of land had, according to the beneficiaries, effectively invested the trust fund in an investment which was not authorised according to the terms of the trust. The beneficiaries brought an action seeking a declaration from the court that the investment was in breach of trust and wanted relief from it → this was duly granted. In a later action, some of the beneficiaries also sought the trustees’ removal from their office

Held: The court recognised that a trustee can be removed even where there is no misconduct (as in Letterstedt), but there was a secondary concern here about the expense of removing the trustees; removing and replacing the trustees here would likely deplete the trust fund, so Warrington J held it was not in the beneficiaries’ best interest that the trustees be replaced

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