Glossary ➲ Law of Trusts

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

Appointor / Principal

Is the term used in modern Trust Deeds to describe the person who has the power to appoint and remove the trustee.

Accordingly, the Appointor assumes indirect control over the whole operation of the Trust.

We generally recommend joint Appointors or at least a clear succession should the Appointor die.

If there is no nominated successor, the Appointor’s legal personal representative succeeds as the Appointor.

Where an Appointor is deemed to have lost legal capacity (e.g. which might be a possibility if the Appointor suffers from a mental condition such as dementia) and where an Enduring Power of Attorney is in place, the Attorney succeeds as the Appointor.


‘As trustee for’.


Any ascertainable person or group of people can be the beneficiary of a private express trust.

Person includes a legal person (also called a legal entity) such as a corporation, unincorporated association, etc.

Charitable trust

A trust is a charitable trust when it is established for charitable purposes (objects).

“A purpose trust that is directed to exclusively charitable purposes and that exhibits public benefit".

A Charitable Trust may be quite general (for example for the relief of poverty) or highly specific (for example the care of the aged in a specific geographic region).

Charitable Trusts need not have any vesting date, and may exist in perpetuity.

Constructive Trust

Not really a trust.

It is a remedy decreed by the Court to prevent unjust enrichment.

The trustee will have only 1 duty: to transfer the property to the intended beneficiary as determined by the Court.

It is a means to disgorge a wrongdoer of ill-gotten gains.

Corpus of a Trust

Property of the trust. Any presently existing interest in property that can be transferred can be the corpus of a trust.

Cy Pres

Pronounced Sigh Pray. It is a phrase adopted from the French meaning, “as near as possible” to the original intention.

Family / Discretionary Trust

 In Australia, a Discretionary Trust is a common structure to run a business out of because it offers many taxation advantages.

For Example: The flexibility to distribute profit to different beneficiaries (including streaming of dividends to a particular individual/s), the ability to access significant capital gains concessions and stream those capital gains to a particular beneficiary.

Inter Vivos

Between living persons, someone transfers or gives property to another person while both are alive, such as a parent giving money or other property to their children.  

Trusts established during a person’s lifetime are often referred to as being an Inter-Vivos Trust.


A legal term used in trusts law.  

An object of a trust is a beneficiary of that trust.

In Wills where a gift is made to a particular group or class of people, an object means someone from that group.  

For Example: The group might be described in a Will as ‘my children’ or ‘my nieces and nephews’.

Private Express Trust

A fiduciary relationship with respect to property whereby one person, the trustee, holds legal title for the benefit of another, the beneficiary, and which arises out of a manifestation of intent to create it for a legal purpose.

Resulting Trust

A resulting trust is an implied in fact trust and is based upon the presumed intent of the parties.

If a resulting trust is decreed by the court, the resulting trustee will transfer the property to the settlor if the settlor is alive, and if not, to the settlor’s estate, i.e. to the residuary devisees if any, and if none, to the intestate takers (the heirs).

Rule Against Perpetuities

At common law, the modern rule against perpetuities, is that no interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years after the death of a life in being who is alive at the creation of the interest.

At common law, an interest is void from the outset if it may possibly vest outside the perpetuity period, such question being determined having regard to circumstances existing at the commencement of the period.

It is not possible at common law, to ‘wait and see’ whether the rule is in fact offended by events as they actually turn out.

The common law rule against perpetuities has been modified by legislation in all Australian jurisdictions, except South Australia where the rule has been abolished.

The most significant reforms to the common law in all jurisdictions where legislative intervention has occurred has been the introduction of a ‘wait and see’ provision, and statutory limits preventing any trust from existing for more than 80 years.

Any trust that purports or attempts to last for a longer period of time is void.

The exception to this rule is for Charitable Trusts.

Secret Trust

Generally speaking, a secret trust arises when a testator wishes to keep secret an object within the Will, such as bestowing a benefit to a political cause, or granting a trust to relatives that may be unknown to the wider family.

Secret trusts fall within two general categories: fully-secret and half-secret trusts.

The basic difference between a fully-secret and half-secret trust, is that there is no indication in the terms of the Will that a fully-secret trust exists.

Whereas, a half-secret trust will be mentioned in the Will, but may leave out the identity of the beneficiary, as well as the gift to be bestowed.


The person who initiates the formation of the trust by the provision of the Settled Sum (usually a nominal amount). Apart from providing the Settled Sum and executing the Trust Deed, the Settlor takes no further part in the Trust operations.

A Settlor will often be a family friend or a solicitor or an accountant who will not be a beneficiary of the trust.

Note: The settlor of a Discretionary Trust must be an independent person.

Special Disability Trust

A trust which allows parents or other family members to leave assets in trust for an individual which can be used to fund ongoing care, medical expenses, accommodation, and some discretionary expenditure for that person into the future, without affecting their entitlement to a disability support pension.

Spendthrift Trust

A trust where the beneficiary is unable to transfer his/her interest, either voluntarily or involuntarily. He/She cannot sell or give away his/her right to income or corpus, and his/her creditors cannot attached these rights.

Support Trust

A trust where the trustee is required to use only so much of the income or principal as is necessary for the beneficiary's health, support, maintenance and education.


A person (or company) appointed to hold property on trust for others, the beneficiaries subject to the terms set out in a will, as a testamentary trust. Executors are often appointed to act as trustees where a trustee role is required following administration of the estate.  However professional advisers or their firms may also be appointed depending on the circumstances.

Testamentary Trust

A trust created by a Will, which only comes into being after the testator passes away.

Testamentary Charitable Trust

A Charitable Trust created by a Will, which only comes into being after the testator passes away.

Testamentary Pet Trust

A trust for the care and support of the testator's pets created by a Will, which only comes into being after the testator passes away.

Totten Trust

Actually a Totten Bank Account [POD]* not common in Australia (used o/seas)

Trust Deed

A legal document that sets out the rules for establishing and operating your trust.

Unit Trust

The trust deed functions in much the same way as the constitution of a company, and units in the unit trust operate in a similar way to shares in a company.

Vesting Day

The Vesting Day is generally 80 years (except in South Australia) from the date of commencement of the Trust.

That is because, as a matter of law, the Trust must terminate or ‘vest’ at a date not later than 80 years after its commencement.

A provision maybe included in the Trust, which enables the Trustee to nominate an earlier Vesting Day.