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Bermuda Court of Appeal upholds decision of Supreme Court to order disclosure

It is not unusual for a settlor to impose confidentiality conditions upon trustees by the terms of the trust. However, there are limits to the extent to which information may be withheld from beneficiaries. Ultimately, all such conditions are subject to review by the court under its supervisory jurisdiction to ensure the proper administration of trusts. In the matter of An Application for Information about a Trust [2013] CA (Bda) 8 Civ, the Bermuda Court of Appeal held that a restrictive veto power to withhold information could only be supported if it was consistent with the proper administration of the trust. Disclosure of financial information to a beneficiary was ordered as it was considered necessary to ensure that the trustees were held accountable to their beneficiaries.

The appeal was against the decision of the chief justice dated 12 March 2013 and his subsequent order requiring the trustees to produce trust accounts and related documents with safeguards intended to maintain their confidentiality and restricting the use of the information. Their request for information was made by B, a beneficiary of a Bermuda law discretionary trust.

Under a deed of appointment, B was potentially entitled to a fixed percentage of the assets of the trust worth a substantial amount and a right to income payments for life. The protector of the trust, also a beneficiary, was B’s mother who held a power to prohibit trustees from disclosing trust information under the terms of the trust…

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