Chapter 1 - Jurisdiction of the High Court

Other supervisory powers

The supervision and control of trustees is currently the responsibility of the High Court. Beneficiaries are able to invite the court to examine the administration of trusts by trustees.55 In Schmidt v Rosewood Trust Ltd the Privy Council affirmed “the court's inherent jurisdiction to supervise, and if necessary to intervene in, the administration of trusts”.56

The High Court’s inherent power to supervise the administration of trusts means it can, in appropriate circumstances, remove trustees or modify or revoke trusts. These powers are exercised only sparingly by the court and it will only intervene where an application is made. Although the High Court retains these supervisory powers, they have long been displaced for all practical purposes by statutory provisions governing the removal, appointment and replacement of trustees and statutory powers covering the revocation and variation of trusts. Those provisions and the court’s residual jurisdiction were considered by the Commission in The Duties, Office and Powers of a Trustee57 and Perpetuities and the Revocation and Variation of Trusts.58

Rickett, above n 42, at 69.

Schmidt v Rosewood Trust Ltd [2003] 2 AC 709 at [51] and [66].

Law Commission The Duties, Office and Powers of a Trustee, above n 10, at ch 4. 

Law Commission Perpetuities and the Revocation and Variation of Trusts: Review of the Law of Trusts Third Issues Paper (NZLC IP22, 2011) at chs 4 and 5.