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

There is also currently a "changing of the guard", with a new Trusts Act, professionalisation of the role of trustee, increased monitoring of foreign trusts, and large numbers of older trusts moving into the second generation of beneficiaries.   

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 a wide variety 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 and acting 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 use and taxation of trusts (and other entities) in domestic and international contexts, including commercial transactions such as securitisations and other finance products.
  • Business succession and estate planning.
  • Contentious trust and estate matters, including disputes between trustees, protectors and/or beneficiaries and between different classes of beneficiaries, and tax disputes. 
  • One of the leading cases concerning the jurisdiction of the New Zealand courts over foreign trusts and related entities (see Ivanishvili v Credit Suisse [2018] NZHC 1755).
  • A novel application to transfer more than 2,000 trustee and executor/administrator appointments in the High Court (see Re NZGT [2019] NZHC 2548).
  • A multi-jurisdictional trust dispute, assisting with the New Zealand law aspects of proceedings filed in the Florida State Courts.
  • Disputes relating to the interpretation of iwi trust deeds 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.
  • Submissions to the Select Committee on the new Trusts Act.

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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