This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

Update-Lucien Freud: The Unknown Beneficiaries
12 August 2014

Update-Lucien Freud: The Unknown Beneficiaries

The anticipated High Court judgment in the matter of Diana Rawstron and Rose Pearce v Paul Freud[1] has now been handed down. The case concerned the construction of clause 6 of the Will of the late artist Lucien Freud.

Secret or half-secret trusts

The claimants, the Executrices of Lucien Freud's Will, argued that clause 6 of the Will made an absolute gift of the residuary estate (around £42 million) to them. They informed the Court that this was subject to a fully secret trust, the existence and details of which was entirely separate from the Will. The claimants declined to provide details of any trust other than to confirm that the defendant, Paul Freud, was not a beneficiary.

The defendant argued that clause 6 should be read as leaving the residue to the claimant on a half-secret trust. To be valid, a half-secret trust must be:

  1. Described in the will as being previously communicated to the trustees; and
  2. Must have been communicated to the trustees in terms of the Will[2].

Paul Freud intended to test these requirements[3] and explore whether any of the residue would fall to intestacy (and therefore to him and his siblings) as the result of an invalid half-secret trust.

The construction of clause 6

The judge concluded that clause 6 left the claimants an absolute gift of the residue. It was accepted that the judge had to examine the following considerations:

  1. The natural and ordinary meaning of the words in clause 6. The judge noted that clause 6 made no reference to a trust and referred to the claimants as individuals and not trustees;
  2. The overall purpose of the will. The judge considered it likely that the purpose of the Will was to create a fully-secret trust;
  3. The other provisions of the Will. Other clauses made explicit reference to trustees and their powers. The judge concluded that the Will conferred the status of trustee and beneficiary on the claimants;
  4. The factual matrix at the time when the will was made. The Will revoked an earlier will made in 2004 in which clause 6 referred to a trust of the residue of the estate. The judge concluded that the new Will was intended to amend this provision; and
  5. Common sense. The judge noted that the claimant was an experienced solicitor who knew Freud for a number of years so he gave significant weight to her evidence regarding his intentions.


For Paul Freud, this judgment means that his only recourse is to make an application for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, though this is a notoriously challenging claim for adult children to bring. For those following the case, it seems that the intended beneficiaries of Freud's significant estate will remain unknown.

Janet Tobin and David Hickmott

[1] [2014] EWHC 2577(Ch)

[2] Halsbury's Laws of England, vol 98, (2) Express trusts (iii) Secret trusts, para 92.

[3] [2014] EWHC 2577 (Ch) para 8