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Access by beneficiaries of ‘trust documents’ – as of right or judicial consent?


Disputes about the right of a beneficiary of a trust to inspect trust documents are commonly
encountered, but there is little appellate authority on the issue. In March 2011 the New South Wales Supreme court delivered judgment in the matter of Silkman. The decision stands for the proposition that the limited approach contained in Schmidt v Rosewood Trust is preferred over the more expansive approach contained in In re Londonderry's Settlement; Peat v Walsh. Under the Schmidt approach, a beneficiary does not have a proprietary interest in trust documents, with the result that a beneficiary will not have an automatic right of production and inspection of such documents. Rather, a beneficiary may only obtain such documents by
requesting the court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to intervene in the administration of the trust.

This article examines the Silkman decision in detail, and discusses its legal implications.

Author profile

Denis Barlin CTA
Denis is a Barrister at 13 Wentworth Selborne Chambers. He advises on taxes generally (both federal and state taxes), superannuation, equity and trusts, as well as asset protection. Denis also conducts disputes as an advocate in both state and federal tribunals and courts. - Current at 02 June 2015
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