Trusts and Incapacity
There are several issues which can arise when a member of a trust loses their mental capacity.
Trustees – a trustee must have mental capacity to act as trustee. Where capacity is lost, and that person is a trustee they will automatically be removed as trustee. The terms of the trust deed will need to be read to determine what happens next. Often it will be up to the appointor to appoint a new trustee.
A trustee’s attorney cannot act in their place.
Homer is trustee of the Simpson Family Trust. Homer has appointed Barney as his attorney, under an enduring power of attorney document, if Homer where to lose capacity. Homer does lose capacity and can no longer act as trustee. However, Barney cannot act as trustee in Homer’s place.
Appointors – The appointor of the trust is the person who has the power to hire and fire the trustee. Also called the Principal or Controller in some deeds. If an Appointor loses capacity often, they are automatically removed as appointor – this is often built into the deed of the trust. If this happens a successor appointor appointed by the trust deed or a second deed may determine who the next appointor is. Where there is none there may be no appointor of the trust. Where the trustee and the appointor are the same person this could causes problems as the trust would be out of anyone’s control and an application may be needed to the Supreme Court for them to appoint a new trustee (very costly).
Where the appointor is not automatically removed then the appointor’s attorney may be able to exercise the power of appointment of the appointor.
Homer has made an enduring power of attorney appointing Barney to act on Homer’s behalf. Homer is the trustee and Appointor of the Simpson family trust. Homer loses capacity. Barney cannot use the POA to become trustee, but he can exercise Homer’s power as appointor of the trust to appoint himself as trustee.
Beneficiaries – a beneficiary is just a potential recipient of income and/or capital of the trust. A beneficiary losing capacity doesn’t change this, they can still receive income and/or capital from the trust.
Company Trustees – If a director of a company loses capacity often the company constitution will work to automatically remove that person as director of the company. If a shareholder loses capacity their attorney can act in their shoes by using the voting power and shareholders can vote in a new director. A director’s attorney cannot act as director but must be appointed director of the company first.
It is also possible for a company to have successor directors or substitute directors. These are appointed by the constitution of the company and need to be set up before capacity is lost.
Homer is the sole director of Simpson Nominees Pty Ltd which acts as trustee for the Simpson Family Trust. Homer has appointed Barney as his Attorney. Homer loses capacity. Barney cannot simply start acting as director of the company or operating its bank accounts etc. The shareholders of the company must appoint a new director. In this company Marg owns 50% of the shares and Homer owns 50% of the shares so a meeting of shareholders would need to be called a vote counted – Barney could vote on Homer’s behalf and Marg on her own behalf (the constitution would deal with situations where there is a 50/50 tie in voting).
However, it is later recalled that the constitution of the company was amended a few years ago so that if the current director lost capacity Bart Simpson would immediately be director – no further consent was required (however the shareholders could vote Bart out, depending on the constitution of the company)