The Role of Trusts in South African Estate Planning

By | April 30, 2023

Estate planning is a crucial process that everyone should undertake. It involves the creation of a comprehensive plan that outlines how a person’s assets will be distributed upon their death.

One of the key components of estate planning is the use of trusts. Trusts are an effective way of protecting assets and ensuring that they are distributed according to the wishes of the deceased.

In this article, we will explore the role of trusts in South African estate planning.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal entity that is created when a person (the settlor) transfers assets to a trustee. The trustee is then responsible for managing those assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

The terms of the trust are outlined in a trust deed, which sets out the rules that govern the trust.

Types of Trusts

There are several types of trusts that can be used in estate planning. These include:

Testamentary Trusts

A testamentary trust is created in a person’s will and only comes into effect upon their death.

It is commonly used to protect assets for minor children or individuals who are unable to manage their own affairs.

Living Trusts

A living trust is created during a person’s lifetime and is effective immediately. It is commonly used to avoid probate and ensure that assets are distributed quickly and efficiently.

Discretionary Trusts

A discretionary trust gives the trustee discretion over how the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. This type of trust is commonly used to protect assets from creditors or to provide for family members who may be financially irresponsible.

Charitable Trusts

A charitable trust is established for charitable purposes and can provide tax benefits for the settlor.

Benefits of Using a Trust in Estate Planning

There are several benefits to using a trust in estate planning. These include:

Protection of Assets

A trust can protect assets from creditors, lawsuits, and other claims. This is particularly important for high net worth individuals who may be at a higher risk of being sued.


A trust provides flexibility in how assets are distributed. The settlor can specify how the assets are to be distributed and under what circumstances.

Avoidance of Probate

Assets held in a trust do not need to go through the probate process. This can save time and money and ensure that assets are distributed quickly and efficiently.


The terms of a trust are private and do not become public record. This can be particularly important for individuals who value their privacy.

Setting Up a Trust

Setting up a trust can be a complex process and it is important to seek the advice of a qualified professional.

The first step is to determine the type of trust that is most appropriate for your needs. This will depend on your specific circumstances and goals.

Once the type of trust has been determined, a trust deed will need to be drafted. The trust deed outlines the terms of the trust and sets out the rules that govern the trust.

It is important to ensure that the trust deed is properly drafted to avoid any potential legal issues in the future.

RELATED POST: How to reduce your estate duty in South Africa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *