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Smart Trust Planning: Which Trust Type Fits Your Goals?

Affluent individuals often establish trusts to simplify asset management. A versatile financial tool, trusts do offer numerous perks, including asset protection and tax benefits. In the following discussion, we will explore the differences between revocable and irrevocable trusts.

Trust types and their characteristics

A trust is a legal arrangement where a settlor appoints a trustee to manage assets on their behalf. This fiduciary relationship is particularly beneficial for inheritance purposes.

Besides, trusts involve a third party (the beneficiary or beneficiaries) who is the ultimate recipient of the trust’s assets. Note that the settlor may also be a beneficiary, potentially even the sole beneficiary.

Now, let’s see how a trust delineates the distribution of authority among its parties.

The trust deed establishes the guidelines for asset management and profit sharing. Therefore, although the settlor transfers ownership of their assets, they retain control by establishing the rules that govern the trust.

Trusts are categorized by various criteria. To illustrate this, living trusts are established during the settlor’s lifetime for a smoother inheritance process. Testamentary trusts, in their turn, come into effect posthumously.

In a non-discretionary trust, the trustee’s role in profit distribution is restricted: the settlor predetermines the beneficiaries’ shares, with conditions explicitly documented. On the other hand, a discretionary trust grants the trustee autonomy to decide how and when the profit will be allocated among beneficiaries. 

Revocable trusts offer the settlor flexibility to modify the trust’s terms, reclaim the property, or alter the beneficiary list at will. In contrast, irrevocable trusts bind the settlor to the initial terms, with changes possible only with beneficiaries’ consent and sometimes not at all. 

At first glance, a revocable trust may seem preferable due to the considerable control it grants to the property owner. Nonetheless, this structure is not without its drawbacks. 

Why choose a revocable trust? Benefits and considerations

The primary benefit of a revocable trust is the settlor’s continued authority over the assets, allowing them to direct both management and profit allocation. Beyond this, revocable trusts offer several other advantages:

  • Effortless Succession: For heirs, a revocable trust simplifies the inheritance process. Unlike a last will, which necessitates probate, a trust bypasses this procedure, often resulting in fewer complications. Moreover, in jurisdictions where inheritance taxes are steep, trusts are a tax-efficient means of transferring property, as they may not incur the same tax liabilities.
  • Discretion in Asset Disclosure: Wills require public disclosure of the assets to be inherited, which compromises privacy. Trusts, however, keep all asset details confidential.
  • Asset Accessibility: Should the settlor face financial difficulties, a revocable trust provides the option to retrieve assets or even terminate the trust agreement. Yet, this level of accessibility comes with the trade-off of losing a notable advantage, which we will explore in further detail below.

Despite the control a revocable trust offers to the settlor over their property, certain disadvantages do exist:

  • Inadequate Asset Protection: In a revocable trust, the settlor is legally considered an asset owner. It means that if creditors file a legal action, the property could be at risk and potentially seized based on a court’s ruling. This vulnerability is not an issue with an irrevocable trust.
  • Greater Tax Obligations: Since the property in a revocable trust is still under the settlor’s ownership, they are liable for taxes. These taxes are less than what would be due under inheritance tax but more than for property in an irrevocable trust.
  • Fraud Risk: It being possible to change the terms of a revocable trust also opens the door to fraudulent schemes. Fraudsters may find ways to alter the trust’s terms without the settlor’s knowledge.

Irrevocable trusts: your legal solution for asset and privacy protection

In an irrevocable trust, the settlor’s options are set in stone: they cannot remove or add assets, alter beneficiary instructions, or adjust profit allocations. Direct management of the trust’s assets is also out of their hands. The trust deed may, however, grant the settlor a role in the trust’s operations with the beneficiaries’ unanimous consent. These are the primary goals of an irrevocable trust:

  • Shield Assets: An irrevocable trust provides powerful protection against creditors and legal actions.
  • Manage Life Insurance: It ensures the orderly transfer of life insurance benefits.
  • Support Charitable Causes: Irrevocable trusts offer a structured way to contribute to charity.

An irrevocable trust is often the preferred choice for asset protection for a clear legal reason: assets held within it are legally owned by the trust, not the settlor. As a result, they are not subject to claims by the settlor’s creditors and cannot be sold to repay the settlor’s debts. This protection is based on the fundamental concept that one cannot dispose of another’s property to resolve their own financial obligations.

Irrevocable trusts offer several key advantages:

  • Asset Protection: Once assets are placed in an irrevocable trust, the settlor relinquishes ownership rights, shielding the assets from creditors and legal judgments. This is an efficient defense in dire financial circumstances and potentially may be a last resort in personal bankruptcy scenarios.
  • Tax Efficiency: The settlor is exempt from taxes on the trust’s assets. While beneficiaries may incur taxes on distributed profits, assets in the trust remain untaxed, which comes as a fiscal advantage.
  • Privacy: Irrevocable trusts ensure the settlor’s financial matters remain confidential. Assets held in the trust are not considered the settlor’s property for declaration purposes, which secures financial privacy.

To form an irrevocable trust, a psychological adjustment is necessary as the settlor transfers their property. They may face two significant challenges:

  1. Limited Control: The settlor hands over management to the trustee, reducing their influence. Yet, as a beneficiary, the settlor may still benefit from the trust.
  2. Complex Legalities: Trusts require expert assistance with their formation and management, and hence, a skilled and reliable trustee.

Top offshore trust solutions from International Wealth

Remember, the trust type you choose should align with your goals. If you need to pass on property quickly and pay no taxes on it, choose a revocable trust. For asset protection, privacy, and tax savings, opt for an irrevocable one.

Need to establish a trust offshore? Get in touch with International Wealth to speed things up and simplify the process!

IEMLabs is an ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are also a proud member of EC Council, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The company was established in 2016 with a vision in mind to provide Cyber Security to the digital world and make them Hack Proof. The question is why are we suddenly talking about Cyber Security and all this stuff? With the development of technology, more and more companies are shifting their business to Digital World which is resulting in the increase in Cyber Crimes.


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