The case of Erceg v Erceg currently being heard in the Supreme Court is challenging the traditional privacy that has been the hallmark of family trusts in New Zealand. While beneficiaries have limited rights to information under the present regime (and we still await the new Trusts Act to see what is proposed), once proceedings come before the Court, it is much harder for Trustees to withhold information.
The substantive judgment in the Appeal has yet to be released. In the meantime, the Supreme Court declined the Trustees’ application to suppress the release of certain information, placing the concept of open justice above considerations such as embarrassment to the family or negative publicity. The threshold for withholding information is set deliberately high and those seeking suppression must show specific and sufficient adverse consequences if an order is to be granted.