The case of Lucian Freud and a Secret Trust

Maria Pusey of Astle Paterson’s Wills & Probate Department discusses the position regarding Secret Trusts following the recent case regarding the Estate of Lucian Freud.

Maria said “When Grant of Probate (an Order of the Court allowing people to deal with the assets of a deceased person) is obtained, a person’s Will becomes a public document – however Lucian Freud appears to have wanted to keep his wishes entirely private: He sought to create a Secret Trust.

On his death, Lucian’s Solicitor and one daughter (who were the executors of his Will) confirmed that before Lucian’s death he told them what he wanted them to do with his money – that his entire £42 million estate was to be given to them only – to the exclusion of his other 13 children.   However, there was no reference to his instructions in his Will.   The Trust was therefore entirely secret.

One of Lucian’s sons, Paul issued a Court action to challenge the validity of the Will.

However, the Court has recently decided that before Lucian’s death he had entered into the agreement, that it constituted a Secret Trust, and therefore Paul and his 12 other siblings would not inherit under the Will.”

That might not be the end of the matter though – it may still be open to Paul or his siblings to make a claim against their father’s estate under the Inheritance Act 1975 on the basis that the Will does not make “reasonable provision” for them.

Secret Trusts are very rare and are not usually recommended by Solicitors as there is a risk of an aggrieved family member making a claim against the estate, as happened in this case.

Maria concluded “To reduce the risk of a dispute arising over your estate on your death it is best to have a Will prepared by qualified Solicitor or Chartered Legal Executive who will be able to warn you of any potential problems that may arise and can advise you as to how these problems are best avoided.

Astle Paterson is presently taking part in St Giles Hospice’s “Make a Will Fortnight” which runs until Friday 17th October.  During this time we will be foregoing our fees for our professional advice in connection with preparing a Will and instead asking clients to make a suggested donation to St Giles Hospice of £75.00 for a simple Will and £125.00 for Mirror Wills.”

If you are interested in making a Will or setting up a Trust please contact Maria Pusey of Astle Paterson’s Wills & Probate Department on 01283 531366 or by way of email to to make an appointment and to discuss your wishes.  

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