An introduction to trusts in South Africa: A beneficial ownership perspective

  • Publication date: 14 November 2022
  • Authors: Johann Krige, Anneke Wolmarans

Registration of trusts

For a trust to be valid in South African law, it must be registered at the Master’s Office. When registering a trust, the trust deed has to be accompanied by an application form, setting out the pertinent details regarding the deed itself. Trusts are often registered by auditors, accountants, and lawyers. The trustees and the person registering the trust are each required to complete and sign an acceptance of appointment, executed in the presence of a commissioner of oaths. In terms of the acceptance of respective appointments, both parties undertake to act within the best interest of the beneficiaries; acknowledge personal liability for failure to adhere to the applicable provisions; and report irregularities to the Master’s Office. [26] In addition to the acknowledgement of appointment, the trustees are further required to supply a certified copy of their identity documentation as well as up-to-date proof of address. [27] No checks are conducted on the founder. [28] If beneficiaries have been identified, they are to provide copies of their identity documentation such as a birth certificate as well as proof of address. [29] In the event of a court order or testamentary trust, the supporting documentation has to be furnished to the Master’s Office. Lastly, the trustees must provide a bond of security, if required to do so by the Master, or proof of exemption from such security.

On receipt of all the required documents, the Master, upon acceptance of the trust deed, will issue the trustees with a letter of authority which indicates the trust deed name, number, and confirmation of who the trustees are. [30] The trustees may only commence administering the trust once the letter has been issued by the Master.


[26] “Administration of Trusts”, the Master of the High Court, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Republic of South Africa, 2013,

[27] “Administration of Trusts”, the Master of the High Court.

[28] “Guide to Beneficial Ownership Information: Legal Entities and Legal Arrangements”, G-20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, World Bank, n.d., 5,

[29] “Administration of Trusts”, the Master of the High Court.

[30] “Administration of Trusts”, the Master of the High Court.

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