This is an interesting case dealing with the situation where the
trustee cannot ascertain for certain whether a beneficiary is alive
The terms of the Alpha Zeta Trust (the "Trust")
provided that the beneficiaries were the settlor, the settlor's
nephew and the trustees of the Middlesex Hospital in London. In a
letter of wishes, the settlor expressed the wish that after his
death the income of the Trust should be paid to his nephew during
his nephew's lifetime and thereafter the capital should be paid
to the trustees of the Middlesex Hospital in London. In 1999 the
settlor wrote to the trustee informing it that the nephew had died
and that his new wish was that after the settlor's death the
trust fund should be paid to the trustees of the Middlesex
When the settlor died in 2002, the trustee carried out extensive
enquiries as to whether the nephew was in fact dead. It was not
possible to locate a death certificate of the nephew but none of
the enquiries produced any evidence that the nephew was still
The Court was satisfied from the evidence that the nephew was no
longer alive and as such the only continuing beneficiary of the
Trust was Middlesex Hospital (which having merged with University
College London Hospital ("UCL") was known as UCL).
The Court agreed with the trustee that the decision to pay the
entire trust fund of the Trust to the trustees of UCL was a
momentous decision and confirmed that the trustee was right to seek
the approval of the Court before doing so. The Court authorised the
payment of the net assets of the Trust after payment of all proper
and reasonable fees and expenses to the trustees of UCL.
This case is useful for trustees who find themselves in a
similar situation to the trustee of the Alpha Zeta Trust. It is
also noteworthy that the Court confirmed that the decision to pay
the entire trust fund to the trustees of UCL, given the uncertainty
surrounding the death of the nephew, was a momentous decision in
relation to which it was right for the trustee to seek the approval
of the Court.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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