Beneficiaries faced with trustees’ refusal to disclose may apply to the court

Hi there.

my father left his 70% of share of property in a life interest trust when he died.
The 70% share goes to me once stepmum dies. Stepmum has moved on (stepmum was trustee and beneficiary), aunt was also trustee.

Aunt retired and appointmented a solicitor as trustee, so its now stepmum and solicitor as trustees.

After requesting information from solicitor, they confirmed my dad had a 50% share so no changes made to trust.

I have documentation confirming 70% is true.

I have written to the solicitor, 3 times, January, february, april, and now a reminder 2 days ago, spefically requesting trust accounts that show why my father lost 20% of his share after he died.

The solicitor has not responded to any of my letters sent, its been 6 months.

I have read online that ‘beneficiaries faced with trustees’ refusal to disclose may apply to the court.’

the silence from all my requests I am starting to interpret as a refusal.

Any idea where and how I apply to a court so they can hopefully force the trustees to evidence the reduction in share ? as this reeks of misappropriation and I am sure my stepmums share has increased , and this is where my dads share has been directed to.

Thank you

There may be a simple answer to this. If the original property was sold for, say, £100K your father’s Trust share of the proceeds would be £70K. If the replacement property was purchased for £140K, you stepmum would have had to put in £70K as would your father’s Trust, hence the now 50:50 shares. It would not be unreasonable for the solicitors to provide details of the sale and purchase to you. Indeed, Trustees are obliged to provide accounts to their beneficiaries.

A Court application would not be simple and not really something for a layperson to deal with so you should seek paid for advice.



You need first to obtain specific professional advice about whether your claim is likely to be successful and this may turn on the merits of the document in your possession and the precise effect of the contents of your father’s Will. You can then decide whether and how to proceed.

Being a litigant in person is no cakewalk and does not prevent costs being awarded against you. If you are represented, the solicitor is required to estimate in advance the likely costs. Bear in mind this will only be an estimate but should be broken down by each prospective step that that you might choose to take.

It may be that you will be advised that a solicitor should writein the first instance to the one who does not reply. The court and its procedures very much favour a letter before action rather than a jump to issue process. Not to reply to a letter from a beneficiary for 6 months is not a good look for the solicitor-trustee and may found a complaint to the SRA, but not yet as it might raise the temperature unnecessarily. He/she might yet dig themselves further into their present hole, so the complaint will be more robust later after they have dug a bit more. The SRA hates solicitors, even good ones, but especially sinners. whom they roast on a spit.

You do not say who is occupying the house now stepmum has “moved on”. It may be that you will be advised to lodge a restriction at the Land Registry in case it is sold and the sale proceeds are spent before you can put a spoke in the wheel. Your stepmum is not entitled to any of the sale proceeds, only the income from them when invested, but some wills permit access to capital if the trustees both agree, so this needs checking specifically because you may not have grounds to challenge it. If she wants to sell you might be able to do a deal on sharing the sale proceeds but if the property is appreciating you might be better to wait. You may well be advised that the will and the applicable law may enable the house to be sold without your consent while preserving your right to the sale proceeds or the investments made with them when she dies. You need to consider whether the investment strategy favours her too much by producing income and, if so, whether you can challenge that and if she is not in occupation whether that detrimental to your capital interest. You need to check that her life interest is not conditioned on her occupying if she is not doing so.

You do not say what the house is worth but if taht is significant it must surely be worth paying for an initial consultation, which might even be offered without charge. The key features of the 2 documents should not take a private client solicitor very long to evaluate but you will be paying for how long it took them to acquire the expertise not just the time it takes them to advise you.

Jack Harper

Thanks Greame.

Stepmum sold the house, (the will allows her to ) and bought bigger house with new husband. And 50% of the proceeeds of dads house are in trust now , in that new house (life interest trust) but should have been 70% of dads proceeds.

I have seen the figures of how much the house sold for, and the amount the trust holds in value in the new property bought, and the amount is 50% of the dads house, not 70%.
Trustees reduced by dads share from 70% to 50% before stepmum sold it…

so the 70% share my dad wanted me to have, has been reduced, with absolute 6 months silence as to why.

My last reminder letter stated ‘trustees should have accounts to demonstrate where those reductions went and why’ - and I have asked solicitor / trustee to explain why they can’t account for this. Hopefully they reply.

Thanks Jack. Gosh this seems like a complex court issue.

I am hoping that the delay here is solicitor ‘has’ gone back to the original trustees to ask for evidence of when they shrank dads share? and perhaps the former trustees (aunt and stepmum) are finding hard to actually have paperwork to back up the reason of shrinking dads share?

‘IF’, the solicitor discovers now that previous trustees all agreed to reduce dads share out of ‘good faith’ towards step mum (raising her share from 30 to 50) and no actual numbers or evidence exists for that reduction / redistribution, now I have asked new trustee to look and as he is a solicitor, would he have a duty to resolve this if the money was moved without solid legal standing? as that would be misappropriation the solicitor / trustee is discovering? can they just leave it like this? or have a duty to hold the former trustees accountable to give back the share taken?

Thank you

It is not possible to answer your question on here. It is entirely possible that two lay trustees, out of ignorance or with the consciences of a well-trained hippopotamus, have got it wrong. Anyone invited to become a trustee should do some due diligence before accepting that the trust has been properly administered. A new trustee will not necessarily be personally responsible for past events (and a retired trustee not exonerated) but it will be no fun blindly inheriting a mess. A new trustee who is a solicitor should have a better chance of identifying a historic dead rat unless deliberately concealed.

Children of a first marriage can lose out unfortunately because their late parent, wishing the surviving spouse to continue to have a roof over her head, but not having taken advice, disinherits (at least to some extent) his children of the first marriage without having that informed intention.

You need advice to know and protect your rights.

Jack Harper


You seem to have missed my point here. It is not the percentage share that moves from house to house but the share of the sale proceeds. 70% of the sale proceeds of a smaller house will never equate to 70% of a larger, more expensive house. You can only work out the share of the new property owned by your father’s trust by dividing the trust’s share of the sale proceeds of father’s house by the overall cost of the new property. It is only if the net sale proceeds of father’s house equate to the overall cost of the new property the father’s trust’s share will still be 70%.



Hi greame. Point understood fully. And yes i have seen the actual figures which prove

I have seen what the 70% of the net proceeds were of my dads house , and the solicitor , trustee , has shown the exact figures which is 50% of the proceeds not 70.

The solicitor has said at the time of sale my dad owned 50% , that money then was spent on new house (held in trust ) however, at time of sale my dad should have owned 70…but trustees reduced his share berore they sold it. And then new trustee took over once step mum had moved.

So dad dies. Declaration of trust shows 70 % owned. Its then changed to 50% owned BEFORE his house was sold… where that 20% went is not Documented or shared.

If if was 70…i have calculated 60% of the new bigger house would owned by the trust… but its much lower…

Derek, Graeme is right but I would want to check that the trustees have the power to do what they have done (almost certainly do in principle but subject to the trust deed) but they have a duty of care to consider the rights of the beneficiaries and a general duty of care. If the entire new property is within the trust how have the additional funds been introduced or is the trust just a part owner with the stepmum? The latter places the trust at some disadvantage as a part interest is less saleable and may have depreciated the value of your remainder interest.

Jack Harper

OK – that does look bad so you now need proper advice as to how to correct the position

Graeme Lindop
Probate Consultant
Coles Miller Solicitors LLP



Hi jack.

Deeds of step mums house are her, new husband with a share each, trust owns rest. Deeds do show right restrictions.

But waters are muddy. If step mum dies the trust comes to end, but new husband lives there and owns a slice so id probably have to hire solicitor to force sale so get what dad left me .

Stepmum and trustee definitely adjusted dads share prior to selling his house. I have calculated that appx 100k was missing from final sale proceeds… the trusts share in new house should be 100k more than it is. Step mum and new husband paid for rest (step mums share increased mysteriously!)

There really is nothing more I can say. You need advice

Jack Harper