Trust-owned Companies and the Irreducible Core of the Trust

(2020) 26 Trusts & Trustees 826

Posted: 24 Aug 2020 Last revised: 26 Jul 2021

See all articles by Jason Fee

Jason Fee

University of Oxford - Merton College

Date Written: June 1, 2020


The recent Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal case of Zhang Hong Li v DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd upheld the effectiveness of anti-Bartlett clauses. This gives rise to the question whether a trust-corporate structure, coupled with a well-drafted anti-Bartlett clause, leaves any room for trust obligations. Through the lens of the law on trust-owned companies, this article thus seeks to re-conceptualize the ‘irreducible core of trust obligations’. It argues that the irreducible core means the minimum duties which are necessary to preserve the integrity of the trust concept. It draws a distinction between core and mandatory duties, in that the ‘bells and whistles’ one adds in specific contexts may be mandatory duties reflecting appropriate policies, instead of core duties necessary for a trust to exist. It accordingly considers the proper content of the irreducible core, as distinguished from other mandatory duties.

Keywords: Trusts, Trust-Owned Companies, Anti-Bartlett Clauses, Irreducible Core of Trust Obligations

Suggested Citation

Fee, Jason, Trust-owned Companies and the Irreducible Core of the Trust (June 1, 2020). (2020) 26 Trusts & Trustees 826, Available at SSRN:

Jason Fee (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Merton College ( email )

Merton College
Oxford, OX1 4JD
United Kingdom

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