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Personal Injury Trust Amended to Remove Professional Trustee Requirement

The majority of personal injury and clinical negligence claims culminate in an agreed financial settlement. However, as one case showed, such deals do not mark the end of the supervisory role played by judges in ensuring that often very large sums in compensation are properly managed for the benefit of vulnerable claimants.

The case concerned a young man who suffered a brain injury at birth. He was aged nine when, in 2001, a £2,225,000 settlement of his clinical negligence claim against an NHS trust was negotiated. As is common in such cases, the money was paid into a personal injury trust for his benefit.

It was a term of the trust that at least one of the trustees should be a lawyer or other professional. The current trustees were a solicitor and the man himself, who was appointed to the role on his 18th birthday. The trust fund had been used to meet his particular needs arising from his disabilities but, through wise investment, its value had increased to over £3 million.

The solicitor trustee applied to the High Court to amend the trust deed to remove the requirement for at least one professional trustee. He argued that the requirement was unnecessary on the particular facts of the case and that its removal would liberate the trust from the burden of professional fees.

Sanctioning the amendment sought, the Court noted that the highly intelligent man's disabilities are purely physical. There was no doubt concerning his mental capacity and the evidence made plain that he has the ability and expertise to manage the trust fund without professional assistance.

He having reached adulthood, it would have been open to him to wind up the bare trust and call for the fund to be paid to him outright. He sensibly preferred, however, that the trust should continue. The Court was satisfied that there was no continuing need for the fees of a professional trustee to be incurred.

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