Trust funds - you’ve probably heard about them before. There’s always a fair share in your standard families-fighting-over-inheritance dramas and movies (Succession). More often than not, it is also used in a negative context or as a criticism - ‘He is a trust-fund baby’.
The reality is, a trust fund is simply a way of giving someone an asset (cash, a house, investments) without the donor giving up all the control to the recipient.
But why is it so important to create a trust fund? Not many people truly understand the benefits or structure of them.
A common question we get asked is, “Can I give this investment property/these shares to my 5-year-old?".
The simple answer is yes, but it may be different to a grandparent (or another non-parent relative) giving them to the 5-year-old.
There is a specific rule called ‘parental settlement’. If a parent wants to give their child (under 18) shares of a company, any income that comes from this asset would still be taxable on the parent. Even though the shares would be in the child’s name, the tax would be charged on the parent until the child turns 18. Once the child turns 18, the tax would be applied to them individually.
However, if the grandparent gave their grandchild an asset, they are not subject to this rule.
Bear in mind these three roles of a trust fund before reading on:
Herein lies the benefits of not directly handing over all your money to your newborn (grand)children.
It’s probably not a good idea to give a 10-year-old a significant sum of money (no matter how well-behaved they are).
A trust is a great way of passing wealth down the family line, without the worry that it will be squandered. The donor can maintain some control over the asset, although it is likely the donor will not be entitled to benefit from the asset. For example, if the trust held shares and there were dividends to be received, the beneficiaries could be entitled to receive these (if the donor wanted them to).
There are different types of trusts and they are all taxed differently. Without looking at the whole picture, trusts can appear to be quite inefficient from a tax perspective.
However, the income tax that applies to the trust can typically be reclaimed by the beneficiaries. Without boring you, there are also Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax advantages. Remember that each trust should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, never assume that the tax conditions will ever be the same.
A trust can ensure that assets do not end up in the hands of an unintended person after a settlor has given them away.
A trust can protect assets from creditors or stop assets from being transferred outside the family circle in the case of a marriage breakdown.
Trusts can be used as a vehicle to provide benefits to employees or charities. Most people are already beneficiaries of trusts, and they don’t even know it!
For example, employment pensions are typically held ‘in trust’ for that individual. Employee shares schemes also typically have a ‘trust’ involved. Employers would be the trustees in this case and maintain control.
This aspect comes back to the ‘control’ element of trusts. A perfect example would be the ‘Grandchildren’s Discretionary Trust’.
The grandparents with lots of wealth decide to put an investment into a trust. The income from that investment is then intended to fund their grandchildren’s higher education. The grandparents would also potentially save Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax personally.
If any grandchild decided not to go behave in accordance with the settlor's intentions, then they wouldn’t necessarily be given any of the income from the trust. It is up to the ‘discretion’ of the individuals in charge of the trust. The donors essentially have the final say in what the money can and cannot be used for.
It’s tough to know whether a trust fund is the right financial decision for you not. We can help you decide if a trust is appropriate and explain what your tax and reporting responsibilities will be. To set up the trust, we would recommend a suitably qualified solicitor (if you do not already have one) that could create the trust deed. This would also help to ensure the consequences are appropriate for what you intend.
We also deal with the ongoing administration of the trust for our clients including:
Please be advised that none of the above constitutes as formal advice and is to be used as general guidance only. If in doubt, please seek professional advice.