Life policy held in trust and trustees cannot be found

I have been asked to deal with a life policy held in trust for over 20 years. The trustees are the deceased (the life assured) and two others. The other trustees cannot be traced. The terms are to pay out to wife/ children or grandchildren or in default of appointment to wife. The provider is advising that they can only pay out to the trustees and the wife (beneficiary) is unable to make any progress. Has anyone come across circumstances such as this and if so any advice would be gratefully received?
Anna Stephenson
Swinburne Maddison LLP

I can think of four solutions - none of them very simple:

  1. Redouble your efforts to track down the other trustees (a search of the probate/death registers would also be sensible). This may not work but would save a lot of trouble and would be necessary for (2).
  2. A Court application to appoint new trustees under s.41 TA 1925 (in the absence of evidence that all are dead);
  3. If it turns out they are all dead, PRs of the recently deceased could appoint new trustees; or
  4. Explain the failure of (1) and cost of (2) to the insurance company and ask them to pay out on an indemnity. If the discretionary period is time limited, this may be much easier after the expiry of the period if the wife becomes absolutely entitled. Either way, it may be difficult.

If the sums is reasonably substantial, a court application under (2) may be relatively simple - it will just be necessary to compile convincing evidence that the trustees cannot be located.

Andrew Goodman
Osborne Clarke LLP

A reputable firm of Probate Genealogists, who are members of the Association of Probate Researchers (APR), should be able to ascertain what has happened to the other trustees.

Philip Turvey
Anglia Research Services

Hi Andrew

This is really helpful. Thank you. I had not thought of option 4.

Even if the trustees can be located I suspect that they will be well into their 90s!

I’m very grateful for your time in responding.

Anna Stephenson
Swinburne Maddison LLP