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Trust Disputes – Reinhart V Welker & Ors [2012]

Australia’s wealthiest woman, Gina Reinhart, has been featured in the media several times this year following a family dispute around the management of the Rinehart Family Discretionary Trust, Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, estimated to be worth $5 billion.

Ms Reinhart’s children filed claim alleging their mother acted “deceitfully”and with “gross dishonesty”in her dealings with the Trust, which was set up in 1988 by her father, mining magnate Lang Hancock.

The claim alleges that Ms Reinhart breached her duties as Trustee when she told her children they could face bankruptcy if they did not extend the vesting date of the trust – the vesting date of a trust is the date the trust is due to end and the assets of the trust are distributed to the beneficiaries.

her children also claimed that Ms Reinhart tried to change the vesting date of the Trust to secure a deal with Rio Tinto to develop the Hope Downs, a joint venture estimated at $1 billion and which requires that no one other than Reinhart family members are allowed to hold shares in Hancock prospecting.

Under the general law there is no power for a Trustee to extend the vesting date of a Trust.  A vesting date can only be extended:-

(a)   Where permitted by the terms of the Trust Deed; or

(b)  Where Court Order, the vesting date to be extended; or

(c)  Where the Trustee and all of the beneficiaries of the Trust agree to extend the vesting date.

Justice Brereton of the Supreme Court of new South Wales reserved his Judgement last week on whether the vesting date of the Trust should be extended and the appointment of a new Trustee.

Whilst most of us do not have the wealth of the Rinehart family it is stil important that any family trust arrangements suit the needs of the family and at Brazel Moore Lawyers we can assist you with the drafting of Discretionary Trust Deeds or variations to the existing Trust Deeds.

Should you have any questions please call Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699.

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