In general, trustees have a legal obligation to provide certain documents and information to trust beneficiaries, although the extent of this obligation can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific terms of the trust. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Trust Deed: The trust deed is the founding document that establishes the trust and outlines the terms and conditions of the trust, including the rights and obligations of both the trustee and the beneficiaries. Trustees are typically required to provide beneficiaries with a copy of the trust deed upon request, as it forms the basis of their entitlements. This may depend on whether the beneficiaries have a fixed entitlement to income or capital of the trust or whether they merely have a right to be considered to benefits from the trust by the trustee as the object of its discretion.
  2. Annual Accounts: Trustees are often required to prepare and maintain accurate accounts of the trust’s financial transactions, including income, expenses, and assets. Beneficiaries are typically entitled to receive annual accounts or financial statements, providing transparency into the management of the trust’s assets.
  3. Trust Information: Beneficiaries have the right to request information about the trust, including its assets, liabilities, and administration. Trustees are generally obligated to provide relevant information to beneficiaries to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the trust. In South Australia the Trustee Act regulates obligations of trustees to keep records and to provide information to certain parties including beneficiaries.
  4. Material Decisions: Trustees may be required to inform certain beneficiaries of material decisions affecting the trust, such as changes to the trust’s terms, distributions of income or assets, or investments. Beneficiaries should in principle be kept informed of significant developments that may impact their interests in the trust.
  5. Court Orders: In some cases, beneficiaries may need to seek a court order to compel a trustee to provide documents or information if the trustee refuses to comply with their requests. Courts have the authority to enforce trustees’ duties and ensure that beneficiaries receive the relevant necessary information to protect their interests.

However, it’s important to note that trustees also have a duty to balance transparency with confidentiality and discretion, particularly when disclosing sensitive information or financial details that may impact the privacy or security of the trust or its beneficiaries. Trustees should exercise diligence and discretion in fulfilling their obligations to provide documents and information to beneficiaries while also safeguarding the interests of the trust and its beneficiaries. Each case is usually different and specific to the relevant trust and to the nature of the requests being made. If you want to know your entitlements as a beneficiary or your obligations as a trustee speak to one of our specialist trust lawyers.