Corporate Trustee


  • What is a Corporate Trustee? 
  • Advantages of Having a Corporate Trustee 
  • Disadvantages of Using a Corporate Trustee 
  • Recommendations for Registering a New Company 
  • How to Choose the Right Corporate Trustee 
  • Steps to Establish a Corporate Trustee 

What is a Corporate Trustee? 

A corporate trustee is a company appointed for the management of a trust. This arrangement entrusts the company with a fiduciary duty towards the trust’s beneficiaries, emphasising actions that serve their best interests. The core responsibilities of a corporate trustee involve comprehensive oversight and strategic management of the trust, aiming to fulfil its objectives and benefit the beneficiaries. 

Key responsibilities include: 

  • Fiduciary Duty: Acting in the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries at all times. 
  • Administration of the Trust: Ensuring the trust operates smoothly, in compliance with the trust agreement and relevant laws. 
  • Investing Assets: Making informed decisions to invest the trust’s assets wisely, aiming for optimal returns while managing risks. 
  • Distributing Income and Principal: Executing the distribution of the trust’s income and principal to beneficiaries as directed by the trust agreement. 

Notably, the trustee company focuses exclusively on the trust’s operation, typically not holding its own Australian Business Number (ABN) or Tax File Number (TFN), nor is it required to lodge a separate tax return.  

This specificity highlights the company’s dedicated role in trust management, distinct from other business or commercial activities. The choice to employ a corporate trustee reflects a commitment to professional governance and the efficient administration of the trust’s affairs. 

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Advantages of Having a Corporate Trustee 

The use of a corporate entity as a trustee in managing a trust brings several significant benefits. These advantages enhance the efficiency, stability, and security of trust management, particularly in comparison to individual trusteeship. 

Perpetual Succession

A key benefit of a corporate trustee is its ability to ensure perpetual succession. This means that the management of the trust can continue uninterrupted even if a director passes away or leaves the company. The process for addressing such changes involves simply appointing new directors without the need to transfer asset titles. This continuity is invaluable for beneficiaries relying on trust distributions, minimising delays in the management of their financial interests. 

Limited Liability Protection

A corporate trustee provides an additional layer of financial protection through limited liability. Since the company is recognised as a separate legal entity, it bears the responsibility for any financial obligations or debts, rather than the directors personally. This arrangement shields the directors personal finances from the trusts liabilities, offering peace of mind and financial security. 

Bankruptcy Protection

In situations where a director faces bankruptcy, the assets within the trust remain secure and unaffected. The clear legal distinction between the trusts assets and the personal assets of the director ensures that trust funds are insulated from individual financial issues, maintaining the integrity and purpose of the trust. 

Enhanced Asset Protection

The separation between trust assets and personal finances, facilitated by the corporate trustee structure, provides a robust level of asset protection. This separation simplifies the legal distinction between assets, safeguarding the trusts resources from personal financial entanglements. 

Handling Incapacity or Inability of Directors

The structure of a corporate trustee allows for seamless transitions in leadership if a director becomes incapacitated or unable to fulfil their role. Shareholders have the authority to appoint new directors, ensuring the trust’s management continues without disruption.  

In cases where a sole director is also the sole shareholder, their personal representative can appoint a new director, maintaining the continuity and stability of trust administration. 

Flexibility in Trust Management

Corporate trustees offer a level of flexibility unmatched by individual trustees. Changes in the companys directors or structure do not impact the legal status of the trust, allowing for adaptive and responsive trust management over time. This flexibility facilitates the trusts long term goals and can adapt to changing circumstances without legal complications. 

Disadvantages of Using a Corporate Trustee 

Choosing a corporate trustee for managing a trust introduces certain challenges and costs that are essential to consider. These aspects can influence the decision making process when establishing the structure of a trust. 

Additional Set Up Costs

One of the primary drawbacks of appointing a corporate trustee involves the initial set up costs. Establishing a company to serve as a trustee entails various expenses, including registration fees, legal costs, and potential advisory fees to ensure compliance and proper structure. These upfront costs can be significantly higher than those associated with appointing an individual trustee, where the expenses are minimal. 

Maintaining Records for the Entity

Another critical consideration is the requirement to maintain detailed records for the corporate trustee. This involves keeping accurate and up to date financial records, minutes of meetings, and other regulatory documents.  

The administrative burden of managing these records can be substantial, necessitating dedicated resources or external services to ensure compliance with legal and financial regulations. 

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Recommendations for Registering a New Company 

While it’s technically feasible to designate an existing company as a trustee, this approach is generally discouraged. The rationale behind establishing a new company to act as a trustee centres on two main considerations: 

  • Dedicated Purpose: By registering a new company specifically for the role of trustee, it ensures that the company’s sole function is to manage the trust. This focus helps in aligning the company’s activities strictly with the interests and objectives of the trust. 
  • Clean Activity History: A newly registered company will have no prior activities or financial entanglements that could potentially complicate the trust’s management or pose risks to the trust’s assets. This clean slate is crucial for maintaining the integrity and clarity of trust operations. 

Despite the challenges mentioned above, the decision to utilise a corporate trustee is often driven by the long term benefits it offers. The advantages justify the initial and ongoing efforts required to maintain a corporate trustee structure.  

When carefully managed, the use of a corporate trustee can provide a robust and effective framework for trust administration. 

How to Choose the Right Corporate Trustee 

Identifying the most suitable corporate trustee to manage a trust is a crucial step that can significantly impact the trusts efficiency and success. Various critical aspects should be considered to ensure the chosen corporate trustee aligns well with the trusts objectives and needs. 


The corporate trustees experience in trust management is a fundamental criterion. A trustee with a proven track record of successfully managing similar trusts offers reassurance of their capability to handle the complex responsibilities and challenges that come with trust administration. 


Closely related to experience, the specific expertise of the corporate trustee in areas relevant to the trusts activities is vital. This includes financial management, investment strategies, legal compliance, and understanding of the trusts sector or the nature of its assets. 


The jurisdiction under which the corporate trustee operates can have significant implications for the trust, affecting everything from legal compliance to tax considerations. A trustee well versed in the jurisdictions regulations and legal environment is essential for dealing with the legal complexities of trust management. 

Minimum Trust Account Requirements

Some corporate trustees may have minimum account requirements for managing a trust. Its important to ensure that the trusts assets meet these requirements or that the trustee is willing to accommodate the trusts specific financial situation. 

Regulation and Standards

A corporate trustee should adhere to high standards of regulation and ethical practices. Understanding the regulatory environment in which the trustee operates and their commitment to maintaining high standards of conduct is crucial for trust security and integrity. 


The costs associated with appointing a corporate trustee, including set up fees, annual charges, and transaction costs, must be carefully evaluated. Comparing these costs against the value and benefits the trustee brings to the trust is essential for making a cost effective decision. 

Alignment with Trust Goals and Concerns

Finally, the degree to which a corporate trustee understands and aligns with the trusts goals and addresses any concerns is crucial. A trustee that demonstrates a clear understanding of the trusts objectives and shows commitment to achieving those goals while mitigating any concerns will likely be a valuable partner in trust management. 

Taking these factors into careful consideration will aid in making a well informed choice, ensuring that the selected corporate trustee is best suited to manage the trust effectively, in alignment with the trusts goals and the beneficiaries best interests. 

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Steps to Establish a Corporate Trustee 

Initiating a corporate trustee structure is a critical process after choosing a suitable corporate entity to oversee the trust. This setup includes several key steps: 

Registration and Documentation

The initial phase involves registering the corporate trustee with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). This registration requires submitting specific information, such as: 

  • Company Name: Proposing a unique name for the corporate trustee. 
  • Directors and Shareholders: Listing the individuals who will serve as directors and shareholders, including their details. 
  • Office Addresses: Providing the addresses of the registered office and the principal place of business. 
  • Business Activities and Purpose: Describing the intended business activities and the purpose of the corporate trustee, especially emphasising its role as a trustee. 

Following registration, it’s necessary to draft a constitution for the corporate trustee. This document defines the scope of the trustee’s duties and authorities, establishing a legal framework for its operation. Additionally, securing the consent of the appointed trustees and their acknowledgement of responsibilities is crucial. 

Director Appointment

A critical step in the setup is appointing at least one director to the corporate trustee. This appointment is vital for the entity’s legal and operational functionality. The appointed director(s) must also acquire a Director Identification Number (director ID), a requirement that ensures accountability and traceability of directors’ activities in their corporate roles. 

These foundational steps lay the groundwork for the corporate trustee’s legal and functional establishment, setting the stage for the efficient management of the trust’s assets in alignment with the trust’s objectives and beneficiaries’ interests. 

Asset Transfer to the Corporate Trustee

After setting up a corporate trustee, moving the trust’s assets to the new entity involves a series of steps that require careful attention to legal details and documentation. 

Trust Deed Compliance 

Review and follow the trust deed’s specified procedures for asset transfer to ensure legality and adherence to the trust’s foundational guidelines. 

Procedural Considerations 

Address all legal, tax, and regulatory considerations vital for a smooth transfer of assets. This ensures that the asset transfer process complies with necessary procedural requirements. 

Trust Deed Revision 

Update the trust deed to reflect the change in trusteeship, incorporating a succession plan and continuity measures for future director transitions, to uphold the trust’s structure and purpose. 

This article is general information only and does not provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision you should contact an appropriately qualified professional.