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18th January 2021

High Court intervenes in case of warring trustees

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In Schumacher v Clarke and others, the High Court refused to approve a trustees’ agreement because it was fraught with conflicts of interest. The agreement concerned the appointment of funds under the Will trusts of the late architect, Dame Zaha Hadid. The issue was not the content of the agreement, but how the trustees came to reach it.

The trustees were engaged in what the Court called a “toxic” dispute, with each alleging that the other should be removed as trustee for a failure to fulfil their duties. The only channel of communication was through their solicitors.

The Court took the view that this atmosphere of hostility prevented the trustees from reaching the agreement in a proper manner. The case highlights the importance of trustees prioritising their fiduciary duties and not becoming consumed by personal disagreements. Despite the content of the agreement being satisfactory, the legitimacy of the entire process was undermined by their conduct.

If you would like to talk to a solicitor about creating a trust, either during your lifetime or in your Will, or the responsibilities of trustees, please contact Alexandra Svennevik or Alexandra Francis.


Case: Schumacher v Clarke and others [2020] EWHC 3381 (Ch)