What appears to be one of the most boring topics imaginable has been the subject of closer scrutiny by those looking to put assets beyond the reach of creditors.
If you have significant debt problems and are looking to put assets out of reach of creditors, a trust can be useful.
But it is not foolproof and can be attacked and unravelled by creditors.
On the other hand you may have assets, no debt problems, but the person(s) who you would like to give those assets to may have debt issues.
And you are, understandably, afraid that those hard earned assets of yours will eventually end up in a great big pot for distribution to the creditors of your loved one.
This is the type of circumstance where a trust may be more usefully deployed…provided it is drafted correctly.
Anyway, here is the general background to trusts..
Trusts that can be used in drafting wills include:
- a discretionary trust
- a trust for sale
- a Settled Land act trust
- an interest in possession/fixed trust.
A discretionary trust fund is one where the only interest that potential beneficiaries have is the right to be considered for an appointment of property. The beneficiaries do not have an absolute right to the trust fund so do not have an interest in possession.
A discretionary trust is useful where
- There are young children
- The testator wishes to postpone mainstream capital acquisitions tax
- The testator wants to adopt a “wait and see” approach to see how potential beneficiaries will turn out.
The trust fund, the beneficiaries, and the trustees must be set out in the will.
Here is an example:
In my Will where the context so admits
1. The beneficiaries shall mean and include:
a) My children
b) My grandchildren born within the trust period hereinafter defined.
2. The trust fund shall mean
a) The sum of €25,000 or the whole of my estate after the payment of my debts, funeral, testamentary, administration expenses and legacies and
b) All money, investments or other property accepted by the trustees as additions.
c) All accumulations (if any) of income directed to be held as an accretion to capital and
d) The money, investments and property from time to time representing the above.
The definition of the trust fund can be as narrow or as wide as the testator chooses. It can be a specific sum of money, a property, or the residue of the estate.
The trustees need to be defined also.
Here is an example:
I appoint Jim and Mary to be trustees (my trustees) of my Will and I appoint them trustees for all the purposes of the Settled Land Acts 1882 to 1890, the Conveyancing Act 1881, the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 and sections 57 and 58 of the Succession Act 1965.
Once the trustees, trust fund, and beneficiaries are defined the substantive trust must be created.
Here is an example of a substantive trust:
I give devise and bequeath the trust fund to my trustees upon trust either to retain or sell it on the following trusts:
Until the vesting day to pay the capital and any income arising from it to any one or more of the beneficiaries in such shares and at such times as my trustees in their discretion think fit without obligation to make payments to or for the benefit of all the beneficiaries or to require equality among those to whom payments are made and on the vesting day to divide what remains of the capital and accrued income equally among the beneficiaries then living without regard to payments already made to them.
Trusts for Sale
This trust is where the trustees are under an obligation to sell, invest the proceeds and hold the proceeds on the terms of the original trust.
This type of trust puts the trustees in control of the timing of any sale of trust property and they cannot be forced to sell, even if a beneficiary wants them to do so.
To incorporate such a trust in a will you need to first decide:
- Who are the trustees and
- What is the trust property.
Here is an example of a trust to sell:
I Give Devise and Bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my estate of whatsoever nature and wheresoever situate unto my trustees upon trust to sell the same and to hold the proceeds of such sale or my residuary estate for so long as the same shall remain unsold upon trust for my daughters Michaela Smith and Susan Sarandon in equal shares.
There is no power to postpone a sale in the wording above. If such as power is to be given then this will give that power:
I Give Devise and Bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my estate of whatsoever nature and wheresoever situate unto my trustees upon trust to sell the same with power in their absolute discretion to postpone the said sale and to hold the proceeds of such sale or my residuary estate for so long as the same shall remain unsold upon trust for my daughters Michaela Smith and Susan Sarandon in equal shares.
If a property is not held upon trust for sale then a power of sale must be given to the trustees in the will.
An ultimate default trust will also be needed to cover the situation where Michaela and Susan referred to above predecease the settlor/testator or the trust fails for want of a beneficiary. If this default trust is not inserted the danger is that the property will pass on intestacy.
Settled Land Act Trusts
The Settled Land Act, 1882 defines a “settlement” of land. A “settlement” is where real property is held by a succession of interests or where a minor has an interest in property.
Settled Land Act Trusts are very useful for the protection of a life tenant who has the power of sale under the Settled Land Acts.
An example of a settlement would be
To my wife for life and thereafter to my son Sheamus.
One of the benefits of this type of settlement is to fix the time at which an interest will vest in the remainderman (Sheamus above) and to postpone the payment of tax to sometime int eh future.
Fixed Trusts/Interest in Possession Trusts
A fixed trust is one in which the interests of various beneficiaries are fixed at the time of the creation of the trust.
They can be very useful to
- Create an immediate interest in possession eg a life interest
- Provide clarity as to who will get the trust property at a fixed time in the future
- Allow a testator to postpone the vesting of an interest until a beneficiary reaches a certain age
- Avoid discretionary trust tax provisions.
It is worth noting the distinction between a benefit vested in possession and a benefit vested in interest.
Eg of a benefit vested in possession:
I Give Devise and Bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my estate of whatsoever nature and wheresoever located to my daughter Emily.
Eg of a benefit vested in interest:
I Give Devise and Bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my estate of whatsoever nature and wheresoever located to my daughter Emily and on her death to my son John.
John has a benefit vested in interest.
Trusts and Taxation
You would be well advised to obtain taxation advice about using a trust because deemed disposals of property are said to have taken place for capital gains tax purposes at different times, depending on the wording of the trust instrument/will.
The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009
The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 has made significant changes to trust law in Ireland eg the Rule Against Perpetuities which may have affected a trust has been abolished.
The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 introduced a simpler way of dealing with trust land which up to then had been governed by the Settled Land Acts, 1882-1890. The 2009 Act covers all trusts of land ,whether created by will or otherwise.
The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 also sets out the powers of trustees of land, procedures for resolution of disputes, jurisdiction of the Courts to vary and make other orders in relation to trusts, and offers protection for purchasers of trust land.