The High Court recently held that a trust document created by the 11th Duke of Marlborough for his descendants should be varied using the court's administrative powers to deal with trust property (section 57 Trustee Act 1925), because it would benefit the Trust and its beneficiaries.

The Trust created in 1986 consisted of 166 acres of agricultural land in Woodstock. The Trustees sought new powers to allow them to enter into a deed of covenant to pay part of the proceeds of sale of the Woodstock land to a charity company. The Trustees also sought the court's permission to allow retiring trustees to be discharged, even if only one trustee would remain.

The High Court held that the trust deed could be amended using the court's administrative powers because the court was satisfied that the Trustees did not have the proposed power and that the proposed power was needed to manage the Trust. The court also considered the effect of the variation on the beneficiaries, and concluded that it was practical for the power to be granted

The Variation of Trusts Act 1958 empowers the court to approve any arrangement which varies or revokes all or part of the trust settlement, provided that the arrangement would benefit any minor, incapable adult and any potential unknown beneficiary. This case highlights that in addition to the Variation of Trusts Act, the court can vary the Trust using its general administrative powers.

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