Understanding the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA)

The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, often called TOLATA, is an important law in England and Wales that changed how land held in trust is managed. Introduced on 1 January, 1997, TOLATA simplified the old, complicated rules and made it easier to handle land trusts. This article explains what TOLATA is, why it was needed and how it affects property law.

Why TOLATA Was Needed

Before TOLATA, the laws about land trusts were based on old rules from the Settled Land Act 1925 and the Law of Property Act 1925. These rules were confusing and made it hard to manage land in trust. The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA) is intending to modernize these laws. These changes are making the rules more accessible and user-friendly.

Main Points of TOLATA

TOLATA introduced several key changes to make managing land trusts simpler:

  1. Getting Rid of Old Rules: TOLATA got rid of the Settled Land Act 1925. This means the old, complicated rules are being replaced with simpler ones that are easier to follow.
  2. Defining Land Trusts: TOLATA clearly defines what a land trust is. This includes any trust involving land, whether it was created on purpose (express), by implication (implied), by the result of actions (resulting), or by law (constructive). This makes sure all land trusts follow the same rules.
  3. Trustees’ Powers: TOLATA gives trustees (the people managing the trust) more power, similar to owning the land outright. They can sell, lease, mortgage, and manage the land, unless the trust says otherwise. This flexibility helps trustees make better decisions for the trust.
  4. Talking to Beneficiaries: Trustees must consult with beneficiaries (the people who benefit from the trust). They have to consider what the beneficiaries want but don’t have to follow their wishes exactly. This balances the needs of the beneficiaries with the practical job of managing the land.
  5. Handling Disputes: TOLATA provides ways to resolve disagreements between trustees and beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can go to court if they think the trustees are not acting in their best interests. This ensures trustees act fairly and responsibly.

Example Scenario: Resolving a Dispute Over a Family Home

Imagine a family scenario where parents, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, set up a trust to manage their family home for the benefit of their children, Emily and John. After the parents pass away, Emily and John become beneficiaries of the trust, and their uncle, Mr. Brown, is appointed as the trustee.

Dispute Arises: John wants to sell the family home to use his share of the proceeds to buy his own house. Emily wants to keep the family home as a rental property for sentimental reasons and future income. Mr. Brown, as the trustee, is caught in the middle and needs to make a decision that aligns with the trust’s terms and the best interests of both beneficiaries.

How Garner & Hancock Can Help in this Scenario:

Mediation and Consultation: We can help Mr. Brown facilitate discussions between Emily and John. Making sure their wishes are heard and considered.

Legal Advice for the Trustee: We can advise Mr. Brown on his legal obligations and powers under TOLATA. This will help him understand his role and responsibilities.

Resolution Strategy: We can propose strategies to reach a mutually beneficial resolution, such as partial sale, refinancing, or setting up a new arrangement that satisfies both parties.

Court Representation: If an agreement cannot be reached, we can represent any party in court to seek a fair resolution, ensuring that the process is handled professionally and in compliance with TOLATA.

When Clients May Need Us Generally on TOLATA:

Dealing with land trusts can be complex, and that’s where Garner & Hancock, as experienced solicitors, can help. Here are some situations where you might need our assistance:

  1. Setting Up a Trust of Land: If you need to create a trust involving land, we can guide you through the process, ensuring all legal requirements are met and your interests are protected.
  2. Managing a Trust: As trustees, you might need help understanding your powers and duties under TOLATA. We can provide expert advice to help you manage the trust effectively and in compliance with the law.
  3. Beneficiary Consultation: We can assist in facilitating consultations between trustees and beneficiaries, ensuring that the process is fair and transparent.
  4. Resolving Disputes: If disputes arise between trustees and beneficiaries, our legal expertise can help mediate. If necessary, represent you in court to resolve the issues.
  5. Advice on Trustee Decisions: We can advise trustees on important decisions. We are here to help navigate complex situations and make informed choices that align with the trust’s objectives.
  6. Changes to Trusts: If changes need to be made to the terms of a trust, we can assist in drafting and implementing these changes, ensuring they comply with TOLATA and other relevant laws.

How Garner & Hancock Can Help You

At Garner & Hancock, we have a team of experienced solicitors specializing in property law and trusts. Our expertise in TOLATA ensures that we can provide comprehensive and tailored advice for your specific situation. Whether you are setting up a trust, managing one, or dealing with disputes, we are here to help you navigate the complexities of TOLATA.


In matters related to TOLATA, Garner & Hancock offers expert legal support to safeguard your interests and ensure the trust is managed effectively in accordance with legal requirements.

How Can We Help You?

We’re here to assist you. Simply send us your query, and we’ll provide an initial consultation to anyone seeking legal assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us anytime for help with your legal matters.