New Zealand Law Society - The Trustees Handbook: Checklists and Precedents for Trustees (4th edition)

The Trustees Handbook: Checklists and Precedents for Trustees (4th edition)

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Reviewed by Jeremy Browne

The purpose of this concise book, now in its fourth edition, is to provide practical assistance “to trustees and trust advisors and anyone involved in the management and administration of a trust” (preface). One finds that a general confusion about the obligations of trustees permeates modern society. People seem to think that they can move property to a trust and yet continue to deal with it as their own. This book aims to help trustees understand the nature of their duties and also provide practical guidance on the running of trust meetings, the passing of resolutions, and the keeping of minutes.

The book is short, just 149 pages in length, many of which do not have a full page of text. It is in three distinct sections:

The first part is checklists and commentary. Essentially this section consists of a short overview of the law with checklists. For instance, the first checklist is a list of factors to consider before accepting appointment as a trustee while the second checklist is a list of matters to consider when reviewing a trust deed. The checklists are very good, and they and the summary flag various tax issues that could arise.

The second part consists of 20 draft trustee resolutions for various common situations. Electronic copies of these documents are on a CD that comes with the book.

The third part consists of some template draft trustee minutes for the initial meeting and general meetings, as well as clauses for 71 specific situations. Electronic copies of these documents are on a CD that comes with the book.

The first section is the only part that contains any black letter law. The summary is fairly high level in nature and a lawyer who practises in this area could well find that they are familiar with everything in this section. However, as a civil litigator who does all manner of cases, I learned several things in reading the summary.

Some authority is cited in this summary. With the exception of about eight cases, all the cases referred to are 21st century New Zealand judgments. The book always gives the New Zealand Trust Reports citation, even where the case is reported elsewhere, no doubt because the same publisher also publishes the NZTR. As someone who was always taught to cite the official report (NZLR instead of NZTR, AC instead of All ER, etc) I noticed the lack of the proper citations, at least as an alternative to the NZTR citation.

One surprising omission was that the book lacks an index. While there is a contents page at the beginning of each of the three sections, these are not exhaustive. For instance, the index to part 3 (minutes) only lists 8 matters, and yet there are 70 distinct sample clauses contained. Having said that, the book is short so it does not take much effort to find what you are after.

Although as quoted above, the preface indicates that a wider audience is intended, I think this book is, as the title indicates, one that is really for trustees. I can even see the merit in suggesting that clients have a copy to familiarise themselves with their obligations as trustees. Lawyers will find it useful to check their own precedents against those recommended by the book or even to help create a set of precedents. As a modestly priced and practical book, it would be a welcome addition to a firm’s library.

CCH New Zealand Ltd, September 2015, 978-1-775471-19-6, 149 pages, paperback and e-book, $92 (GST included, p&h excluded).

Jeremy Browne is a director of Henderson Reeves Connell Rishworth in Whangarei. He is a civil litigator who undertakes a wide range of claims, including some trust disputes.

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