How to deregister a dormant trust

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During the years people’s needs might change and trustees or beneficiaries move on to different phases in their lives which might make the use of a trust vehicle no longer necessary.  In these types of circumstances it might be required that a trust be terminated.

Termination normally rears the question of which Master’s Office should handle the deregistration of the Trust. Trusts are 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 have jurisdiction and termination of the Trust can be conducted at that Mater’s Office.

An interesting note is that there is no provision in the Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1998 which specifically requires the deregistration of Trusts. Deregistration is an internal administrative action to facilitate the management of trust files in the Masters’ office. As the Master registers all Trusts, the Master also requires confirmation that a Trust has been terminated. A Trust may be terminated by operation of law, by fulfilment of the Trust’s objectives, due to destruction of Trust property or by the renunciation of the Trust by the beneficiary.

The process to deregister a trust

A written application by the trustees must be lodged with the Master containing the following additional documents:

  1. The original signed resolution by the Trustees terminating the Trust and specifically referring to whether the Trust was dormant or active and whether a bank account was opened in the name of the Trust and if so, that the bank account has been closed.
  2. The original Letter of Authority;
  3. Bank statement of the Trust reflecting a nil balance or the final statement prior to closing the bank account or a letter from the bank confirming closure of the Trust’s bank account;
  4. Proof that all the beneficiaries have received their benefits; and
  5. An affidavit from the Trustees confirming that the Trust has been divested of all assets.

On receipt of the documents the Master will confirm the deregistration of the Trust and inform the Trustees that his file is closed. The Master will specifically direct the attention of the Trustees to the provisions of Section 17 of Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1998 which states:

“A Trustee shall not without the written consent of the Master destroy any document which serves as proof of the investment, safe custody, control, administration, alienation or distribution of Trust property before the expiry of a period of five years from termination of a Trust.”

On paper the process seems simple enough but in practice the Master may direct various further requirements to the Trustees in order to satisfy him that all necessary steps were taken. If you require assistance with the deregistration of a trust you can contact our trust department on 021 824 2020 or

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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