oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Rural trust companies and boards of executors versus country attorneys : the history of symbiotic "bastard relationships" in the battle for trust and estate business in South Africa to ca 1920

Volume 2003 Number 9
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



The rise of trust companies and boards of executors in South Africa may be traced back to the introduction of the British legal system at the Cape and the consequent abolition of the Orphan Chamber in 1833. According to Ordinance 104, the functions of the Orphan Chamber, traditionally the administrator of estates at the Cape, were transferred in an altered form to the Master of the Supreme Court. The abolition of the Orphan Chamber and the provision that all estates had to be administered from then on by an executor under the supervision of the Master of the Supreme Court - along with the rapidly growing economy of the Cape Colony and the need for specialised financial services which stemmed from that - soon created a need for corporate institutions with the status of legal trustees. The continuity that the latter institutions afforded would provide the necessary security that was essential for the handling of trust services and which could not be guaranteed by an individual in a one-man business. The shortage of people with the necessary knowledge and time at their disposal to perform the task of the former Orphan Chamber could also be resolved by these institutions. It was against this background that the first trust company in South Africa was established on 22 April 1834 by 22 inhabitants of Cape Town as the and a new type of competitor for trust business, namely the corporate trustee in the form of a board of executors or trust company, and a new profession, the professional trustee, came into being.

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