Administration of 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 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. 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 the applicable fee (available on the Chief Master's Driectives page), for registration of a new Trust. There are no costs involved in amending an existing Trust.
    See the following circulars/gazettes relating to the fees:
  3. Application form (J401)
  4. Completed Acceptance of Trusteeship (J417) and Acceptance of Auditor Application (J405) forms.
  5. Beneficiary Declaration (J450)
  6. Trustee(s) Identification – Certified copies of ID / Passport / Organization Proof of Registration (CK1)
  7. Trustee(s) Representative Identification – Certified copies of ID or Passport (Mandatory for Organization Trustee(s))
  8. Beneficiaries Identification – Certified Copies of ID or Birth Certificates / Passport /Organization (CKI)
  9. Bond of security by the trustees - form J344 PDF(if required by the Master) or Proof of Exemption (If applicable)
  10. Final Certified Court Order (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.  

  1. Application form (J401)
  2. Completed Acceptance of Trusteeship (J417) and Acceptance of Auditor Application (J405) forms.
  3. Beneficiary Declaration (J450)
    For the testamentary trust the completed acceptance of trusteeship and the photopage of the trustees ID document by each trustee and all the requirements listed on form JM21 have to be lodged.

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.

Trustees should keep accurate financial statements to comply with their fiduciary obligations to the beneficiaries. The Master may request the trustees to account for the administration of the trust.

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 Information’s 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 Honore’s 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.

Trust Beneficial Ownership Register Online System

Trust Beneficial Ownership Register

Information captured on this form is submitted to the Master of the High Court.
This information is required in terms of Trust Property Control Act 57 of Control, 1988 (Act 57 of 1988) and General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Act, 2022 (Act 22 of 2022).

Trustees are required to keep it in their records together with ID copies of all beneficial owners of the trust.

Please follow this link to the Trust Beneficial Ownership Register Online System and the Trust Beneficial Ownership Register template (xlsx).

Chief Master Directive 8 of 2023 [382kb] - Beneficial Ownership Register. This Directive amends and/or repeals prior Directives, Circulars or instructions regarding this subject as per the effective date indicated on the Directive. Effective from 17 Oct 2023

Support or enquiries can be mailed to DojDEOnlineSupport@justice.gov.za.

FAQ on the Masters Trust Beneficial Ownership Register

Why must this information be completed and who will have access to it?
Please see Chief Master’s Directive 8 of 2023.

I logged in yesterday but this morning I can’t. How do I get my login active again?
Message: “Account has been locked out”
i. Wait 30 minutes from when the ‘account locked’ message is received and then try again
ii. Please refresh your browser and try again.

Receive a message “You did not type the verification word correctly. Please try again.”
Log in again and ensure that the capture is completed correctly.
I have not received my login pin. What do I do?
Check the spam/junk folder.
OR
Try to log in again.
Ensure that your mail service has not blocked the email.

The Trust Beneficial Ownership Register button referred to in Step 8 of your “Quick Guide to Trust BOR” is greyed out
Kindly first follow step 6 to SEARCH for the trust. Once you have done so, you will be able to either pick the trust from the list provided or, if no match could be found, the TRUST BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP REGISTER tab will be activated for you to upload information.

I received the following message: “There are no contact details for this trust. Trustees must update details on the trust at the Masters Office where the trust was registered. Access to the trust cannot be granted now”. What do I do?
Kindly complete / update the J417 form for at least one of the trustees, print it and have it signed.
Please then lodge the scanned copy thereof electronically with the Master.
Please allow 15 working days for the information to be updated by the Master, after which you can access the BO Register again for uploading/updating of the BO Information after the trustee has approved your access.

I received the following message from noreply@justice.gov.za:
Your Trust Beneficial Ownership Register submission is acknowledged. If your register is not available on the system, it could not be migrated to the new system. Please resubmit.”
OR
I followed the Quick Guide - Trust Beneficial Ownership Register but was unable to select Trust Beneficial Ownership Register to upload/ resubmit the registers for the trusts.
Kindly first follow step 6 to SEARCH for the trust. Once you have done so, you will be able to either pick the trust from the list provided or, if no match could be found, the TRUST BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP REGISTER tab will be activated for you to upload information.

Every time I upload/submit the spreadsheet, and all looks correct, I get the following error: “There were validation error(s) during the upload. Do you want to view the error(s)?”
The information you captured is incorrect / incomplete. View the document from the system, hover over the highlighted areas to see what the issue is.
YELLOW highlighted areas shows information captured incorrectly.

RED highlighted areas shows information/data missing.
Double check the captured information for typing errors.
Note that the trust numbers should be in the correct format:
- starting with an IT or a MT, depending on the type of trust (IT for inter vivos trusts, MT for testamentary trusts)
- then 6 digits number
- followed by a “/”
- then the year
- then the suffix (if applicable)

When I search the trust, it is listed, but it does not show the information of the trustee etc. How can I check/update the Trust BO Information?
Click on the name of your trust in the search list.
Then click on the TRUST BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP REGISTER.
Then you upload the spreadsheet with information.

Prior to the activation of the new system, I downloaded and completed an EXCEL Beneficial Ownership template. Can I still use this document to amend/ upload new information?
Note that the template changed, so please download the new spreadsheet, complete it and upload it, otherwise you will receive an error after uploading it, warning you of missing data on it.

What is the cut-off time for lodging of the BO Information, in order to avoid a penalty?
Please see Chief Master’s Directive 8 of 2023 (Click here to open)

What is the “URN” and where will I find it?
The URN (Unique Reference Number) is created by the Masters System when a trust is registered. You will find it at the bottom left of the letter authority.
(Example: 8992020TRU000000 )However, this field is not compulsory, so if you do not have it, you can just complete the normal trust reference number in the relevant column and leave the URN column blank.

Will I receive a confirmation letter that I have uploaded the BO information and that I am compliant with the Act?
You will receive an email confirmation that acknowledges receipt of your beneficial ownership register.

Updated: 07/11/2023