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A fiduciary relationship (short Trust ) between two or more entities is when the contract or force law full legal authority "in trust" from the settlor to the trust taker ( trustee is transmitted). In relation to third parties ( external relationship ), a complete transfer of the right, e.g. ownership of a thing , can take place. This means that the recipient and administrator of the thing in the external relationship, depending on the structure of the trust relationship, has the full legal status of an owner .

In Switzerland, trustee is the professional title of tax advisor .


The term trust is used in many contexts, most of which are derived from legal trust. Colloquially the term Treuhand is used for both

and the

used. The term is also used in part to designate specific companies or to describe the company's purpose in connection with the company name .

In the legal field, the term trustee forms the generic term under which the various forms of trustee relationships are subsumed.

legal form

The fiduciary relationship can be structured as a legal transaction (for example through a contract) or as another legal relationship (for example with a trust ).

Depending on the structure of the trust relationship (for example: transfer of full rights, authorization , proxy, etc.), the trustee receives more or fewer rights and obligations from the trustor. In accordance with the transfer of rights and obligations to the trustee, the trustor loses his legal position.

Duties of the Trustee

However, the trustee is bound by a trust agreement to manage the matter in the interests of the trustor and to only make permissible dispositions. In this respect, a trustee , a holder of rights, although only exercise limited these rights may - pursuant to an agreement with a settlor or from the trust statute out - but still have effective in disregard of agreement on these rights could .

The trustee can do more externally (towards third parties) than he is allowed to do internally (towards the trustor, beneficiaries, etc.).

Differentiation from other legal institutions

Due to the diversity of the appearance of the trust, an exact differentiation from different legal institutions is sometimes not possible. In many legal institutions, under certain circumstances and when additional rights or obligations are added, a trusteeship or quasi-trusteeship may also exist.

  • authorization
    • Authorizes the authorized person to act in his own name on behalf of a third party.
    • Very limited transfer of the exercise of rights and obligations.
    • The right itself is not transferred.
  • Deposit / safekeeping§ 957 ff. ABGB , § § 688 ff. BGB , Art 472 ff OR )
    • In principle, no transfer of ownership of the stored / deposited item to the custodian (exceptions: "irregular safekeeping" / cumulative safekeeping in accordance with § 700 BGB, deposit in accordance with § 372 BGB)
    • Basically only passive management (safekeeping).
  • After-inheritance
    • partly similar to the trusteeship, but the prior heirs have more limited power of disposal.
  • Buyback
  • Donation subject to conditions (§ § 525 ff.BGB, Art 245 f, 249 OR)
    • Usually no third-party beneficiary when donating,
    • no right of the donor to issue instructions beyond the condition,
  • Representation
    • The trustee acts in his own name.
  • dependent (fiduciary) foundation
    • Limitation of liability to the foundation's assets,
    • The purpose of the foundation is decisive for the administration of the foundation's assets.
  • Execution of wills
    • The executor of the will is the holder of an administrative right in rem,
    • only acts internally in trust towards the heirs.
  • Trust
    • legal relationship between trustor and trustee at the trust,
    • Responsibility of the trustee towards the trustor at the trust,
    • The legal status of the beneficiaries in the trust (if any) is much weaker than in the trust.
  • Power of attorney
    • Authorizes the authorized representative only to act on behalf of others.
    • Very limited transfer of the exercise of rights and obligations.
    • The right itself is not transferred.


If a vehicle is transferred from A to B in trust, B appears externally (i.e. in dealings with third parties) as keeper, owner, policyholder, etc. An outsider does not notice anything from A. In the trust agreement, the two of them can specify that B drives the car around the block once a week and then refuel. B would not be entitled to anything more in the internal relationship (trust agreement) between A and B. Nevertheless, as the owner under civil law, he could also effectively transfer the vehicle. These powers, which result from the completely passed over, civil law ownership of B, are said rights that go beyond the trust agreement. B would have to pay compensation internally to A for such a sale, which is not permitted under the contract. B was unfaithful after all.

In practice, such constructions are particularly relevant for hedging transactions , such as transfer of ownership by way of security (in the example: transfer of ownership of motor vehicles by way of security ) or in debt collection . Recently, trustee relationships have also appeared in company pension schemes . The double-sided trust is preferred, in the international context called Contractual Trust Arrangement or CTA.

Occasionally, companies are founded by trust companies so that the name of the trustee appears on the Internet or in the company registers as the founder or owner and the identity of the transferor of legal power is only disclosed if the trust agreement is known.

Other meanings

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