What are the uses of a Trust?
Trusts have been established to:
1. Reduce the taxation of property
2. Preserve capital from feckless heirs
3. Facilitate the orderly transfer of property to future generations
4. Endow charities
5. Protect against political risk in unstable countries
6. Carry out commercial purposes
7. Consolidate ownership of assets
8. Enhance confidentiality
9. Avoid complications on death through the avoidance of Probate
10. Overcome forced heirship provisions
Sometimes several of these objectives can be achieved at once through the creation of a single trust.
What is a Trust?
Trusts have been recognized in England and Wales since the Middle Ages. A trust is a legal relationship, not a legal entity, which is usually created by private agreement between the original owner of property (“the Settlor”) and the person to whom the property is transferred (“the Trustee”). Trusts depend on the distinction in English (and other common law) legal systems between “legal” ownership and “beneficial” (sometimes referred to as “equitable”) ownership. If a person holds property as trustee, he holds merely the legal title to it; the beneficial ownership (that is, the right to enjoy or benefit from the property) rests with the beneficiaries of the trust. The effect of creating a trust is to shift the burdens of property ownership onto the Trustee while retaining the benefit of the property oneself or with one’s family who would typically be the beneficiaries of the trust.
As a trust is a legal relationship, not a legal entity like a foundation or corporation, it is essentially a private arrangement. Trusts are not ordinarily registered anywhere, and can therefore be established on a confidential basis.
Trusts can last for several generations; some countries provide for trusts to last indefinitely; others stipulate a maximum period such as 125 years in the case of England or 150 years in the Cayman Islands. Certain types of trusts are exempt from these rules. The trust relationship is usually created by the signing of a trust deed, which is a formal legal document that sets out the terms of the trust. These will include identifying who the beneficiaries are (by name or by class description), what beneficial rights they have, what powers the Trustees shall have and for how long the trust can last.
Trusts can be made “revocable” or “irrevocable”. A revocable trust is one which can be terminated on demand by the settlor; an irrevocable trust is one which cannot be brought to an end by unilateral action by the settlor. Which type is appropriate will often depend on tax considerations.
Trustees are subject to supervision by the Courts and beneficiaries are entitled to apply to the Courts for redress against the trustee if they consider that the trustee has been in breach of the trust obligations it has assumed. Courts regard trusteeship as a responsible obligation and require high standards of care and performance from professional trustees. Trustees are personally liable for breaches of trust and can be required to make restitution to the trust fund in case of loss arising through breach of trust.
How can Summit Trust International help?
Any form of transferable property can be held in trust. While many financial institutions will only accept certain types of property in trust, Summit Trust International has particular expertise in holding in trust not only portfolio assets and securities, but also real property (residential and commercial), intellectual property, trading companies and family businesses, fine art, bloodstock and chattels such as jewellery, aircraft and ships. This can be of particular interest to family offices which may require trustee services to handle complex assets of this nature.
Our staff has the appropriate professional qualifications and experience which enable them to deal confidently with such complex asset holding structures.