ARE YOU A TRUSTEE IN A WILL AND UNSURE OF YOUR OBLIGATIONS?

If ever you read a Will, it is quite common for it to say something like “I leave my residual estate to my son John; but if he should fail to survive me the gift should be shared equally between his children”. Well, a problem that can arise, is that the children may still be very young, and far too young to inherit a large sum of money.

While this seems very fair, it can mean money or investments have to be held by the trustees for a long time, before the children can inherit. This may be at age eighteen or an older age may be stipulated e.g. 25. For example if a child is two and they can inherit at eighteen this would be sixteen years.

A similar situation can arise where money or investments have to be held for a beneficiary with learning difficulties. In many Wills, the Executors are also appointed as Trustees. So if money has to be held for a child or disabled person for example, the trustees have to take care of the money until it is required. This can be a big responsibility. Well for example, you might say, it could go in a building society account.

While the money should be reasonably safe, interest rates are low currently, (typically 1% at best) so there is a real danger the value of the money could be eroded with the cost of living. This can mean in sixteen years’ time, the money won’t buy anything like as much as it would today.

For large amounts you would probably want to spread the money between several accounts with different institutions, like eggs in baskets. The financial services compensation scheme covers amounts up to £85,000 with one company.

The trustees have a duty of care to the beneficiaries to act in their best interest. The beneficiaries are the people receiving the money, typically young people. The trustees, like executors, should always keep records. In some cases interest received must be declared to the Inland Revenue. The Government lay down rules in the Trustee Act 2000. This act states you should seek professional advice. For example, this could be with an Independent Financial Adviser.

In conclusion therefore, if you find yourself in this position of being a trustee, having to hold investments, it would be well worth studying.

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