Trusts play a significant role in the life and economy of New Zealand. Their operation continues to be the focus of attention from media, regulators and the Law Commission, and the amount of trusts-related litigation in the courts continues to grow. 

Our team of Trusts specialists is drawn from across Russell McVeagh's practice groups to provide strategic advice to clients on the establishment, management and administration of trusts, asset and business planning, and complex family and succession matters. We also advise and act on contentious trust and estate matters, including litigation, alternative dispute resolution and pre-litigation advice. Our focus is on complex trust structures used by corporates, financial institutions, iwi and high net worth individuals.

Our experience includes advising on:

  • All legal aspects of the establishment, management and administration of trusts, including trustee powers and discretions, beneficiary rights, the variation and resettlement of trusts and the preparation of documentation.
  • The taxation of trusts and the use of trusts (and other entities) in domestic and international contexts.
  • Business succession and estate planning.
  • Contentious trust and estate matters, including disputes between trustees and beneficiaries and between different classes of beneficiaries, and tax disputes.
  • Significant relationship property litigation matters and in particular appearing before the Supreme Court in the Clayton litigation, which covered such diverse topics as the classification of trustee powers as "property" under the relationship property legislation, "sham" trusts and the powers of the courts in respect of trusts under the Family Proceedings Act 1980.
  • A dispute relating to the interpretation of the Ngāti Koata Trust's trust deed and other governance issues.
  • Trust issues arising from relationship property agreements.
  • Investment management contracts, custodian arrangements, administration contracts and other service contracts for trustees.
  • Winding-up trusts and estates including trustee indemnity issues.
  • Enduring powers of attorney and management under Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988.

Trustee companies

Companies acting as trustees have become increasingly common. We work with our clients to ensure the implications of having companies as trustees, and the risks and options to minimise the risk of failure, are fully understood. We advise on alternative approaches to the structuring of private trust companies, the relationship between the trust deed and the company constitution, and succession issues.

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