Topic Archives: Wills, Trusts & Estates

The Chief Justice has recently considered the impact of the Children Act 1998 (“the Act”) as amended by the Children Amendment Act 2002 (“the 2002 Amendments”) upon the ability of trustees to change the governing law of a foreign law trust to Bermuda.

The 2002 Amendments, which came into force in January 2004, created a new rule for construing all instruments, including international trusts. On one reading of the Act, a person can no longer validly give a gift or make dispositions of property to their “legitimate children” only (unless each legitimate child is identified by name), since such a gift/disposition would be construed as a gift/disposition to their legitimate and illegitimate children.
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The Transcontinental Trusts International Forum 2017 took place earlier this month on 4-5th May 2017 at the Fairmont Southampton. This conference began in Bermuda in 2015 and has grown hugely in popularity as one of the key events on the private client calendar. This year it was attended by leading international experts, lawyers and barristers from the international and local private client market as well as renowned international judges. The whole event received an extremely favorable response from speakers and delegates alike. Topics covered included the impact of Brexit and the US election on the industry, practical consequences flowing from CRS & FATCA, an international litigation update, family governance and tax changes in the US and UK. Furthermore, data protection was highlighted in several of the sessions as an area to look out for.
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In the Matter of the C Trust [2016] SC [Bda] 53 Civ was the first Bermuda case to extend the perpetuity period under the new Section 4 of the Bermuda Perpetuities and Accumulations Act 2009 (“the 2009 Act”). The amendment to Section 4 took effect in December 2015. Although prior to the amendment, the 2009 Act had already abolished the rule against perpetuities with respect to instruments taking effect on or after 1 August 2009, the rule continued to apply to trusts established under Bermuda law prior to 1 August 2009 as well as to trusts originally established in other jurisdictions (with an applicable perpetuity period or similar limitation) but now governed by Bermuda law.

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Our property is ours to give. This belief forms the foundation of the common law principle of testamentary freedom – that by the terms of your last will & testament, you may leave whatever you choose to whomever you choose. In Bermuda, the Wills Act 1988 enshrines this principle at clause 5(1): “…every person may dispose, by will executed in accordance with this Act, of all real estate and all personal estate owned by him at the time of his death.”. Nevertheless, this freedom was never seen as entirely divorced from the context of family obligation, as was eloquently expressed by Chief Justice Cockburn in his judgment in the case of Banks v Goodfellow (1870) 5 LR QB 549, 563-565:
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MJM has acquired several ancient deeds and local legal instruments dating back to the early days of the settlement of Bermuda. Andrew Martin examines the legal context of these documents and their relevance in the development of legal principle, and puts them in their social and historical context.

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