Bahamian financial services executives have been urged to “take this industry seriously” and ensure they meet global standards, as the organisers behind an upcoming seminar on trust disputes prepare to give them “an eye-opening experience” on the increasing litigation impacting trusts and trustees.
Higgs & Johnson, the Bahamian legal firm, has linked up with UK-based attorneys, Taylor Wessing, to prepare materials for the **Trust Disputes – Attacking and Defending Trusts and Trustees** seminar.
Philip Dunkley, senior partner at Higgs & Johnson for commercial litigation and law, said the size of the trust industry – both in The Bahamas and globally – had increased due to their rising popularity as asset protection and estate planning vehicles in the Spanish-speaking world, and because of the increase in high net-worth families and individuals.
Meanwhile, the “second generation” of many settlor families was now coming through and taking over.
Both factors, Mr Dunkley said, had produced an increase in litigation involving both trusts and their trustees, making the seminar scheduled for **June 6-7** increasingly important.
Mr Dunkley said: *”Our trust industry has grown tremendously over the years. Thirty years ago, the number of trusts was relatively small compared to those administered today.
“That is why we would possibly expect to see disputes arise. The number of disputes has increased, and trust litigation is becoming an every day thing in our litigation department here. It’s just the numbers and the time which we’re at right now.”*
The trust disputes seminar will analyse trusts from the perspective of where things may go wrong, rather than look at structuring and tax planning.
Broken up into 16 units, it will draw on real world case examples, in focusing on issues such as sham trusts, defective trusts, trustee powers and the proper way to exercise them, corporate issues and corporate liabilities, the consequences of a breach of trust, trustee duties, the role of protectors and trustee defences.
Mr Dunkley said: *”The materials here are more comprehensive than any materials provided to any trust conference.”*
He added: *”Where there’s responsibility, there’s exposure. The financial services industry is the second most important industry in The Bahamas, and it’s important everyone in the industry keeps educated and performs their jobs in accordance with standards elsewhere.
“There have been some terrible mistakes in the past, and it’s why we feel it’s so important for the industry to educate itself and keep current with any changes going on.
“It’s important that everyone in this industry takes it seriously, otherwise there are a lot of competitors out there. It’s important people be educated, and keep themselves educated, and we administer these things at a high level.”*
Earl A Cash, a partner at Higgs & Johnson in the area of trusts and estates, and banking law, said Bahamian trust practitioners and anyone connected with the industry would be able to use the seminar to update themselves on global developments impacting the sector.
He added: *”When you look at the assets under management in trusts, it’s really astounding and mind-boggling.”*
Mr Cash said the seminar was “tailor made in many respects” to The Bahamas, being very focused and comprehensive on issues relating to trust disputes. He added that it would pinpoint many issues facing Bahamian trustees and other professionals on a daily basis, and said: *”It should be an excellent tool for our professionals. When you deal with the trust industry on a daily basis, issues arise every day in every shape and form.
“They do not function in a vacuum. It would naive for practitioners to think they function at one level here, when the bar is raised globally.”*
Mr Dunkley said of Higgs & Johnson’s decision to get involved with the seminar: *”We feel it’s our obligation to do our bit in trying to assist the industry in keeping them up to date and educate them on new developments in the industry.
“There hasn’t really been an educational effort of this nature for a long time. We felt that it would be very helpful for the industry.”*
The seminar is being held in conjunction with the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), Central Law Training, and the International Trust Companies Association (ITCA).
*Submitted by Higgs & Johnson from the news article **Take Financial Services Seriously** prepared by Neil Hartnell, Tribune Business Editor*