Tuesday, 7th July 2020

This Month's Magazine
A brief introduction to trusts

A brief introduction to trusts

A brief description and purpose of Trusts.

There are many benefits in creating a Trust. These include: Taxation planning (wealth taxes, inheritance taxes, etc.) - Estate planning and protection for or from the family - Protection of minors – Asset Protection from political and social instability.

A Trust exists when one person the Trustee holds property for the benefit of another person(s), the beneficiary. The Settlor, the creator of the Trust, transfers his property to the Trustee. It is important to appreciate that the legal title then passes to the Trustee and the link with the Settlor is broken.

As far as the day to day running of the Trust is concerned, more importantly in the event of the death of the Settlor, he will set out his guidelines and thoughts to the Trustee in a Letter of Wishes, which is not a binding document.

The beneficiaries have the right to enforce the Trustees’ obligations and duties as set out in the Deed and enacted in statute law and common law. It is important to appreciate that if no one has enforceable rights, there is no Trust. This gives the Settlor and beneficiaries a degree of comfort because, if the Trustees act improperly, the beneficiaries can compel the Trustees to comply with the Trust Deed and if necessary bring about the assistance of the Court.


The Trustee only has legal title, he can’t “enjoy” the Trust assets. The beneficiaries can only enjoy the assets and can’t have title – it is a feature of Anglo Saxon common law and the law of equity. Interestingly in parts of Europe where the legal system is based on Civil Law, the Trust concept is not really recognized.

A Trust can be created during the Settlor’s lifetime or on his demise. It can be an oral declaration or by the execution of a Trust Deed which covers the following areas:

  • It names the Trustees (usually the Settlor) and the beneficiaries.
  • The Trust property.
  • The powers, duties, discretions and obligations of the Trustees.
  • Duration (usually 100 years).
  • Governing Law.

There are stringent statutory law and common law duties to protect and enhance the Trust for the beneficiaries.

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