Chapter 6
Trustees’ powers

Age of majority


R9 The new Trusts Act should:
(1) Set the age of majority for the purposes of the Trusts Act and trust law generally (including wills) at 18 years.
(2) Clarify that the Age of Majority Act 1970 does not apply.

A shift to 18 years

6.16This recommendation brings trust law into line with other legislation, such as the Minors’ Contracts Act 1969, the Care of Children Act 2004 and the Wills Act 2007. Under New Zealand law an 18 year old has the same legal capacity and the same capability as a 20 year old for most purposes. It would be discriminatory to leave the age of majority under the trusts statute at 20 years as there is no objectively assessable reason for distinguishing between 18 and 20 year olds in this context.

6.17Nearly all submitters commenting on this issue supported the proposal. Several were concerned that many 18 year olds may not have sufficient maturity for it to be desirable for them to receive trust property and have the rights of an adult beneficiary. However, we are not convinced that departing from the now generally accepted age of adulthood can be justified in this context. Settlors will always be free to set terms of trust that provide an alternative age for when beneficiaries receive property.

6.18The recommendation means that for the purposes of trust law the age a child or minor becomes an adult is 18 years. New wording would replace terms such as “full age”, “infant” and “infancy” which imply an age of majority of 20 years.187 The reform would not alter the ability for a trust deed to set the terms relating to age for that trust.
187Age of Majority Act 1970, s 4.