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 Registrations and Amendments at Pretoria Masters Office Notice:

For new Trust Registrations and Amendments to these newly registered Trusts that have been captured on the new ICMS Masters Trust system, please complete the new eForms available at the following link:

Please note that these forms will not apply to previously registered trusts. Newly registered trusts will always have a Unique Reference Number (URN). The new forms are marked in RED under the heading of “TRUSTS - PILOT FORMS”

These documents will become compulsory once the system is confirmed as approved by the Chief Master at a date to be confirmed. Please bear with us while we are piloting this system.