Trust not trustworthy with my son's money, says disgruntled dad

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
Like in the case of a will, it is prudent to carefully plan for the future of your children in case of early death by creating a trust account or any other legal option to leave money or property for your children. /123RF
Like in the case of a will, it is prudent to carefully plan for the future of your children in case of early death by creating a trust account or any other legal option to leave money or property for your children. /123RF

A trust account is basically created to ensure that a trusted adult or trustee will manage and take care of a young person's daily needs and inheritance until the age of 18, 21 or 25.

But according to Linda Masango, his son Lwazi goes hungry and miss school because Fairheads Benefit Services has neglected to take care of his needs.

Masango, 37, of Mayfield Park, Johannesburg, said his son was three months when his wife passed on. At the time of her death, a trust account was formed to ensure that his son was well taken care of. But now he is being told to go apply for the state child support grant to take care of him, he said.

He said the Fairheads conduct was also against the child's right to education.

"At times the child misses school for three weeks due to nonpayment for transportation costs by Fairheads, which is against the child's right to education," Masango said.

He said his son's absenteeism has resulted in a subsequent drop in his academic performance and the school has also recommended counselling for his child.

Masango is unemployed and gets part-time jobs and at times sells his own belongings to survive, he said.

"For the past four months Fairheads has ignored my request for transportation fare and the only option available was to sell my personal belongings in order to get the child to school," he adds.

In an e-mail which Consumer Line has seen, Rona Dill advised Masango to apply for a social grant in order to meet the child's needs. 

He said he did not know where he would get funds to ensure that his son was at school when they reopen on Tuesday.

He said he was also in the dark as Fairheads has not given him any statements showing the status of his son's finances.

"I think I should report this to the Human Rights Commission as they are not acting in the best interest of my son."

Trusts for minors are usually set up by parents or relatives who want to leave property to a young person, but also want to name a trusted adult to care for the property until the child is old enough to be financially responsible.

Olefile Moea, a trustee at Fairheads Benefit Services, said Masango's allegations that the child missed school for three weeks were unfounded as he failed to provide proof of absenteeism.

"He also failed to give records of attendance... and we do not agree that absenteeism was the cause of the child's performance difficulties," Moea said. He said they have honoured their obligations towards Masango's son.

Moea said where the trust has already distributed the annual amount allocated for the year, a further request cannot be paid.

"Our staff are trained to discuss all possible alternatives with the guardian or caregiver. These options include, among other things, information on non-fee paying schools and Government Assistance Programmes which may be available."

Moea said the trustees owed a duty to the child until the age of 18, and must ensure that the funds were used in a way that ensures as far as possible that the child did not run out of this money before reaching the age of maturity.

"The money we hold is not sufficient to cater for all the child's needs, and the trust does not take over the role of providing for all the financial needs of the child."

Moea added that the guardians still hold the role primarily and the trust supplements to the extent that funds were available and based on the allocation models it uses, and distribution guidelines.

"While the trustees appreciate the high cost of raising a child, it simply cannot cover all of the costs associated with raising a child."

Moea said it was the trust's duty to assist the guardian or caregiver with the annual allocation and for the guardian or caregiver to manage or adjust his or her own financial budget and supplement the costs.

This is because the trust is limited by the capital amount held for the beneficiary and, therefore, it must prioritise the costs and expenses that it assists with based on the amount it has available for the year.

"A key priority for the trust is to use the benefit to assist guardians and caregivers with the child's educational costs - and guardians are aware of this," Moea said.

"We have paid amounts for educational-related expenses requested by Masango in the course of this year and our refusal to pay a requested amount does not in itself amount to a dereliction of our fiduciary duties."

He said the trust has an obligation to use the benefit prudently to provide for the child's educational and other well-
being expenses until age 18.

"It cannot cover all expenses as it simply does not have enough money to do so.

"It also cannot pay out significant amounts in a short space of time and have the money running out before the child turns 18, as it has a legal obligation to utilise the money over that period."

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