A key goal is to help our clients understand their trusts. They can then make the best decisions for the beneficiaries and at the same time protect themselves from claims of mismanagement.


Introducing the Trust and Companies Team

Trusts and companies can be daunting! At CooperAitken we have a fantastic team who can help you.
We can provide you support in managing your trust or company. This includes everything; from set up, understanding your obligations, regular reviews, record keeping and meeting management. We can also act as an Independent Professional Trustee on your trust.

Contact the team on 07 889 7153



Our Trust and Companies Division Manager; Megan Wood 'The Lawyer amongst the accountants'


Megan joined CooperAitken in 2015, having worked at a law firm for 1 ½ years. She finished her University study in mid-2014 and graduated with a Bachelor of Law Degree with First Class Honours in October 2014. Megan then completed her Professional Studies and was admitted to the Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand at the start of last year. 

Megan grew up locally and enjoys getting out and about on the farm, spending time with family and being at the beach. She and her fiancé, Scott spend time re-decorating their home and as Scott is a volunteer fire fighter, they are involved with the Tahuna Volunteer Fire Brigade. 

At CooperAitken, Megan is an in-house Lawyer and manages our Trust Division. She has been a part of the team for over a year now and is enjoying getting to know our trust clients and working with them to review and bring their trust and estate planning up to date. Earlier in the year Megan was nominated for NZ Young In-House Lawyer of the Year.

 Read more about our trust team here


What is a Trust

A Trust provides a valuable way of protecting the assets that you have accumulated for the benefit of others. If you are a trustee of a trust you should remember that the assets of your trust do not belong to you - you are looking after them for someone else. The obligations and accountability of trustees are increasing and beneficiaries of trusts are asking more questions. In view of this, CooperAitken recently launched our Trust Administration Service. Let us help you understand your trust and manage it to maximise the benefits of having a trust. This will save you time and give you peace of mind.

Trustees Responsibilities

  • Reading, understanding and being familiar with the trust deed, together with any variations
  • Obeying the terms of trust in your decision making
  • Being involved in the decision making
  • Having a trust minute book and documenting all decisions made by the trustees
  • Ensuring the trust property is under your control and is well managed
  • Knowing who the beneficiaries of the trust are
  • Acting impartially between different classes of beneficiaries and providing full diclosure to beneficiaries
  • Dealing in good faith and in the best interests of present and future beneficiaries
  • Being aware of the settlors memorandum of wishes and ensuring decisions are consistent with these wishes
  • knowing all the assets and liabilities of the trust
  • Keeping adequate accounting books and, where appropriate, preparing or instructing your chartered accountants to prepare full and clear financial statements

Why do you need help managing your Trust?

The obligations and accountability of all trustees  is increasing, with beneficiaries of trusts asking many more questions.

All trustees are jointly and severally liable for the debts of the trust. While sometimes trustees can limit their liability to the assets of the trust, they are personally liable to the Inland Revenue and are liable if they have been negligent or dishonest.

Trusts are increasingly becoming under attack from:

  • Relationship failures (Family Proceedings Act, Property (Relationships) Act, Bundle of Rights
  • Enforcement or punitive measures (fines imposed on beneficiaries in expectation that trustees will pay, or trust property used in crimes)
  • Sham or alter ego (trustees action or inaction are coming under greater scrutiny – keeping trust property separate from personal property)
  • Transactions to defeat creditors
  • Trustee failings (not meeting obligations owed to beneficiaries)

Benefits to you

With CooperAitken managing your Trust Administration:

  • You will better understand your obligations as trustees as well as how your trust works
  • A regular review will ensure the Trust continues to meet  requirements as well as your needs
  • You will be fully updated with regards to the financial position of the trust
  • It will give you peace of mind that someone is looking after the trust paperwork, keeping it up to date and advising you of any potential issues.
  • It will save you time, as we will keep records and minutes up to date
  • We scan all relevant trust documents so they are readily available to email to you if ever required
  • We will provide you with a trust summary and information for  your records

Where CooperAitken is the Trustee

Where we are the Trustee it is our company policy that we manage the Trust Administration:

  • To ensure we meet our obligations as a trustee – to the Settlor, co-trustees and beneficiaries of the Trust
  • To minimise the risk to us, of being attacked/sued as trustee
  • It is important that we do not just sign off on transactions of the Trust – we have to be able to prove that we are involved in the decision making (sham trusts, fulfilling obligations of trustees)
  • Sometimes we will have to question our co-trustee decisions – just to ensure we have considered ALL beneficiaries in our decision making.

If both us and your lawyer are trustees of the Trust –

  • Together, the trustees will decide who will complete the trust administration.  If the lawyer is completing the trust administration, they will need to provide us with all information for our records.
  • We will certainly endeavour not to double up on costs and work.
  • Who does what checklist

Article - A Living Guide, read about how to adequately plan for death. Things to have in place in a Living Guide, this will help your family and others at the time of your death.

Trust Administration Service

As part of our Trust Administration service we will:

  • Keep the records of your trust well maintained.
  • Remind Trustees and the Trust’s solicitors of significant milestones and dates
  • Liaise with the Trust’s solicitors as required
  • Prepare appropriate minutes and obtain signatures of Trustees
  • Circulate six-monthly questionnaires to capture and document major decisions
  • Arrange and attend annual meeting of trustees, prepare agenda and minutes, and report to you
  • Be available to discuss any matter relating to your Trust





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