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

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

The role of the Master’s Office

The Master of the High Court in the area or jurisdiction in which the initial trust property is situated, or where it is to be disposed of, has jurisdiction over the trust instrument and overview thereof. [31] The role of the Master in respect to trusts is to be custodian of the trust deed and its registration documentation. [32] The Master further serves to oversee that trust deeds are compliant with the provisions of the TPCA, and that trustees perform their duties in terms of the trust instrument and the TPCA. [33] If an auditor of the trust suspects any maladministration of the trust by the trustees, it has a duty to report its suspicions to the Master. [34] The Master may call upon trustees to account for their administration of the trust or disposal of the trust assets, and may have the trust investigated by a competent person. [35] Furthermore, upon registration of the trust, unless specified otherwise in the trust deed, the trustee is obligated to furnish the Master with a security. [36] Under the current regulations, the Master thus serves a predominantly administrative function.

Access to information

Law enforcement officers, including those from foreign jurisdictions upon request, have access to the contents of the files held at the Master’s Office and may make copies of those documents. This includes the names of the founders, trustees, and beneficiaries of trusts.

In the event of an individual seeking access to information regarding a trust deed, the person has to submit a written application for access to the Master where the trust deed has been registered, stating their reasons for requesting the information. [37] The Master then has an obligation to request input from the trustees and beneficiaries in order to decide whether or not to supply such information.


[31] “TPCA”, Section 3.

[32] “TPCA”, Section 4.

[33] “TPCA”, Section 19.

[34] “TPCA”, Section 15.

[35] “TPCA”, Sections 16(1) and 16(2).

[36] “TPCA”, Section 6.

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

Next page: Abuse of trust instruments in South Africa