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Belize Trusts Overview

Belize Trusts

(1.) Belize Trusts Governing Law

The principal legislation in Belize concerning trusts is found in the Trusts Act, the Public Trustee Act, the Wills Act and the Administration of Estates Act. These and other important trust legislation are listed below:-

1. Administration of Estate Act 1953
2. Estates of Deceased Foreigners Act 1906 & 1940
3. Public Trustee Act 1953
4. Trutst Corporations Act 1971
5. Trustees Investments Act 1902
6. Trusts Act 1992
7. Wills Act 1953

It is to be noted that the Trusts Act replaced the Trustee Act of 1923, which was repealed when the Trusts Act was enacted. [1]

(2.) Belize Trust Creation

There is no requirement for a trust to be put in writing. However, unit trust and/or a trust in respect to land is not enforceable in Belize unless it is in writing.[2]

The registration of trusts is optional as is a registration fee of two hundred dollars. Furthermore, any variation of terms of the trust may be submitted to the registrar for a fee of one hundred dollars.[3]

There are three certainties which have to be met:-
1. Certainty of Intention – there must be a clear intention to create a trust;
2. Certainty of Objects – it must be possible to ascertain at least one beneficiary (except in the case of the purpose trusts)
3. Certainty of Subject Matter – i.e. the trust property.

(3.) Belize Trust Residency Status

A trust is regarded as being exempt for tax purposes when:
1. The settler is not resident in Belize during the year,
2. The beneficiaries are not resident in Belize,
3. and When no trust property includes land in Belize[4]

(4.) Belize Foreign Trust Provisions

The recognition of foreign trusts is included within the Trusts Act. However, not all sections of this act apply to foreign trusts. The parts and sections of the act otherwise cover all Belizean Trusts.[5]

(5.) Belize Trust Minimum Assets

Requirements have not been set as to the minimum amount or type of assets held in a Belizean Trust. The assets must meet the requirement to have a certainty of subject matter.

(6.) Belize Trust Fraudulent Disposition

Where a settler with no ownership rights attempts to create a trust with property, no duties arise as the trust is considered to be “incompletely constituted at the time of the declaration”.[6]

(7.) Belize Trust Registration and Fees

Optional Registration fees for Trusts are payable upon submittal of the application for the registration. Initially the optional Registration fee is two hundred dollars. Subsequent submittals of variations within the terms of the trust will be subject to a fee of one hundred dollars.[7]

(8.) Belize Trust Settlor

Any person having the right under Belizean law to own and transfer property can be a settlor. Given the stringent real property (land) laws, a trust containing Belizean land would therefore a need a settlor of Belizean citizenship. If the trust property contains no land then there is no stipulation for a settlor to be a Belizean.[8]

(9.) Belize Trust Trustees

Any person having the right under Belizean law to own and transfer property can be a trustee.[9] Given the stringent real property (land) laws, a trust containing Belizean land would therefore a need a trustee of Belizean citizenship. If the trust property contains no land then there is no stipulation for a trustee to be a Belizean. A trust must have a minimum of one trustee and a maximum of four trustees.[10]

(10.) Belize Trust Filing of Accounts

The Trust Act requires that trustees maintain proper accounts showing a true reflection of trust assets and upon a reasonable request provide these to the Courts, Attorney General, settler, protector or subject to terms of trusts qualifying beneficiaries.[11] Upon a filing with a Belize court, the trustee can be compelled to provide such accounts of administrations.[12]

(11.) Belize Trust Fiduciary Responsibility

General rules of equity would apply.

(12.) Belize Trust Protector

The Trusts act does specifically provide for the powers of a protector in Part III Section 16. It states the following:
16.- (1) The terms of a trust may provide for the office of protector of the trust.
(2) The protector shall have the following powers-
(a) (unless the terms of the trust shall otherwise provide) the power to remove a trustee and to appoint a new or additional trustee;
(b) such further powers as are conferred on the protector by the terms of the trust or of this Act.
(3) The protector of a trust may also be a settlor, a trustee or a beneficiary of the trust.
(4) In the exercise of his office, the protector shall not be accounted or regarded as a trustee.
(5) Subject to the terms of the trust, in the exercise of his office a protector shall owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust or to the purpose for which the trust is created.
(6) Where there is more than one protector of a trust then, subject to the terms of the trust, any functions conferred on the protectors may be exercised if more than one half of the protectors for the time being agree on its exercise.
(7) A protector who dissents from a decision of the majority of protectors may require his dissent to be recorded in writing.[13]

In addition to this specific legislation, the court has the power to remove or appoint a protector.[14] The protector has the power to call upon the trustee for an accounting of the trust property[15] Protectors can also enforce the purpose of a trust where a fiduciary duty to the purpose of the trust is owed.[16] The protector has the power to remove a trustee.[17] When provided in the trust the protector may have the power to appoint a new trustee.[18] The protector owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust.

(13.) Belize Trust Beneficiaries

There are no restrictions in Belizean law on who may be a beneficiary under a trust. The trust may restrict these. An interest in a trust is considered the personal property of the beneficiary and may be transferred in any manner not denied by the trust.[19]

(14.) Belize Trust Forced Heirship Exclusion

The relevant trust acts for Belize do not provide for forced heirship. However, in circumstances relating to relatives not provided for within a will a petition to the courts may be made by the relatives for amounts deemed as suitable by the courts to provide for the maintenance of these relatives. The Wills Act stipulates several scenarios that may effect the courts decision for and against the relatives petitioning for maintenance.

(15.) Belize Trust Perpetuity Period

The perpetuity period for a trust in Belize is 120 years.[20]

(16.) Belize Trust Accumulations

The Trusts Act of 1968 provides for accumulations as long as they do not exceed perpetuity period if accumulations are provided for within the trust[21] In the advent that the beneficiary is a minor, the Trusts Act provides additionally for accumulations until the beneficiary ceases to be a minor.[22]

(17.) Belize Trust Termination

Subject to the terms of the trust and the order of the court, a trust can be terminated in the following ways, according to the Trusts Act:
(a) an interest lapses;
(b) a trust terminates; or
(c) there is no beneficiary and no person (whether or not then living) who can become a beneficiary in accordance with the terms of the trust,[23]Or where the trust is for charitable purposes the trust may cease if the purpose has been fulfilled, or filled to the fullest extent possible.[24]

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[1] Trusts Act (Chap. 202), 2000 Revision, § 70.
[2] Id. § 5(4).
[3] Id. § 63.
[4] Id. § 64(1).
[5] Id. § 66(1).
[6] Id. § 8(4)(a).
[7] Id. § 63.
[8] Id. § 9(1).
[9] Id. §§ 17-18.
[10] Id.
[11] Id. § 28(1).
[12] Id. § 58(1)(a)(ii).
[13] Id. § 16.
[14] Id. § 58(1)(a)(iii).
[15] Id. § 28(1)(b).
[16] Id. § 27(4).
[17] Id. § 22(2)(c).
[18] Id. § 19(1)(a).
[19] Id. § 11.
[20] Id. § 6(1).
[21] Id. § 6(4).
[22] Id. § 38(a)(ii).
[23] Id. § 44.
[24] Id. § 45.