Don’t assume a trustee has the board’s authority to act
November 27th, 2020
Outsiders often assume that trustees have both the authority and the capacity to enter into transactions binding the trust. If trustees have not ensured that these requirements are met, to what extent can outsiders be deemed to have known?
Can a testamentary trust be amended?
November 6th, 2020
Often the testator or testatrix directs in his or her will that his or her assets be transferred into a trust to be formed upon his or her death. A testamentary trust is then formed upon his or her death and the terms of the last will and testament form the terms of the trust.
Unlike an inter vivos trusts, which is a contract, which the contracting parties (the founder, the trustees and potentially the beneficiaries) can amend in terms of our law, the trustees cannot amend the trust instrument of a testamentary trust on their own, as one of the contracting parties – the founder - is no longer around.
Termination of a trust does not automatically terminate trusteeship
October 30th, 2020
The Trust Property Control Act does not make provision for the termination of a trust and merely refers to the concept in Section 13, which makes provision for the fact that a court can terminate a trust, and in Section 17 setting the requirement to retain trust documents for five years after the termination of a trust. The Master of the High Court did, however, issue a directive in March 2017 setting out the Master’s requirements to deregister a trust. Even though the Trust Property Control Act does not make provision for the termination of a trust, in terms of our common law, a trust can terminate by operation of law in certain circumstances. Even though some people believe that their obligations as trustees terminate upon the happening of a termination event, the office of trusteeship comes to an end only when the trustee has duly disposed of all trust property and the Master has confirmed this. Only then will the trustees really have discharged their obligations.
What to consider when a trust is involved in legal action
October 23rd, 2020
A trust itself cannot sue or be sued, because it is not recognised as a legal persona, but rather a legal persona sui generis (which means of its own kind or class), in South Africa (Rosner v Lydia Swanepoel Trust case of 1998). The trustees, in their official capacity, can, however, sue or be sued. All the trustees must join in suing and all must be sued (Mariola v Kaye-Eddie case of 1995). Therefore when a trust is sued or sues, the names of all trustees, rather than the trust itself, are to be sited in pleadings. Even though the names of the trustees will be cited in any action against a trust, it is the trust that will be liable in respect of any claims and not the trustees personally; the trustees merely act in their official capacities as trustees of the trust.
Minimum and maximum number of trustees
October 16th, 2020
The Trust Property Control Act does not prescribe a minimum or a maximum number of trustees, and a trust may be properly established with only a single trustee. The founder will be required to decide how many trustees he or she wants to appoint, given his or her specific circumstances. The Master of the High Court prefers trust instruments to stipulate a minimum and maximum number of trustees.
Can you access trust assets to settle a trustee’s debt owed to you?
October 9th, 2020
A recent webinar hosted with Business Report dealt with the importance of proper administration of a trust to prevent a trust from being labelled someone’s ‘alter ego’ (an extension of oneself), whereby the trust form is disregarded when is comes to claiming money from a person, resulting in the inclusion of the trust’s assets in calculating a claim typically against a trustee. This is a common strategy in divorce cases. The question however arises - can you ever recover a loan made to a trustee from a trust instead? The answer is you can, but only in certain circumstances, and only by choosing the right line of attack.
Do the benefits of a trust justify the costs?
September 25th, 2020
People often ask this question. Trusts do cost money to set up, but using the cost of setting up a trust as an excuse to not set one up may be penny wise and pound foolish. It may cost you more by not having a trust. The cost of Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Estate Duty and Executor’s Fees, during your life and upon your death, can be expensive if you do not take advantage of setting up a trust timeously. It can be a costly exercise to move assets, acquired by you, into a trust at a later stage, so the perfect time to establish a trust, as part of your estate plan, is when you start building wealth, in order to avoid unnecessary costs – now or in future.
Why a trust requires its own bank account
September 17th, 2020
Often people are of the view that trusts do not require their own bank accounts. Trustees and even service providers justify why separate trust bank accounts are not maintained for trusts – from being convenient, to saving costs, to being ‘dormant’ trusts - to name a few. Little do they know that it is in fact a legal requirement for each trust to have a separate bank account. The main rationale is to prevent any mingling of trust funds with any other non-trust funds, which may place the trust at financial risk.