Master of the High Court: Trusts

The administration of trusts is governed by the provisions of the Trust Property Control Act no 57/1988.  There are two types of trust, e.g. an inter-vivos trust and a testamentary trust:

(a)   an inter- vivos trust is created between living persons;
(b)   a testamentary trust derives from a valid will of a deceased.

The following documents must be lodged in order to enable the Master to register an inter vivos trust and to issue letters of authority to the nominated trustee(s).

  1. Original trust deed or notarial certified copy thereof.
  2. Proof of payment of R100 fee, for registration of a new Trust. There are no costs involved in amending an existing Trust.
    See the following circulars relating to the fees:
  3. Completed (J417) Acceptance of Trusteeshippdf by each trustee.
  4. Bond of security by the trustees - form J344 PDF(if required by the Master)
  5. All the requirements listed on form JM21PDF
  6. An undertaking by an Auditor - see paragraph 5.2  on form JM21PDF (if applicable)
For a testamentary trust only requirements 3 to 5 have to be lodged. There are no fees involved and the deceased's last will serves as the trust document.  

The inter-vivos trust must be registered with the Master in whose area of jurisdiction the greatest portion of the trust assets are situated.
If more than one Master has jurisdiction over the trust assets, the Master in whose office the trust was first registered will continue to
have jurisdiction.  

On receipt of all the required documents, the Master may issue the nominated trustees with Letters of Authority, to administer the trust.
No trustee may act as such without the written authority of the Master.

Financial statements must be kept, and, if requested by the Master, must be lodged with him/her, especially when queries regarding the administration of the trust are received by him/her.

How to obtain information on a Trust (such as names of Trustees etc)?

You should please apply in writing to the Office where the Trust has been registered, providing reasons why this information is needed. The Master will then request the input of the Trustees and beneficiaries, after which he/she will exercise his discretion in providing you with the information / not. Should the Master refuse to provide you with this information, you will need to apply to the Informationís Officer of the Department of Justice.

How to de-register / terminate a trust?

The Trust Property Control Act makes no provision for the deregistration of a trust. Deregistration is an internal administrative action to facilitate the management of trust files in the Masters office.

The common law however makes provision for the termination of a trust by operation of law in the following circumstances, by statute, fulfillment of the object of the trust, failure of the beneficiary, renunciation or repudiation by the beneficiary, destruction of the trust property, or the operation of a resolutive condition. See Honoreís South African Law of Trusts 5th edition paragraph 343.

If a trust can be terminated on one of the above grounds then the Master will deregister a trust. For the termination of a trust the following documents are required:

  • A -The original letter of authority;
  • B - Bank statements reflecting a nil balance on the final statement;
  • C - Proof that the beneficiaries have received their benefits.

Upon receipt of the above documents the Master will deregister a trust which has been terminated. Please note that the above documents must be lodged with the Master with whom the Trust has been registered.