Investments  

The benefits of setting up a trust

  • Explain some of the importance of trusts
  • Identify the role of trustees
  • Describe why setting up a trust is important right now
CPD
Approx.30min
The benefits of setting up a trust

Trusts are one of the most enduring concepts in common law.

They, like Covid-19, impact private and public life in equal measures, intersecting families, businesses and jurisdictions.

In the midst of the outbreak of Covid-19, trusts have proved inherently flexible and durable.

Trusts first emerged in English law in the 12th century to protect the property of landowners who travelled to fight in the Crusades.

The world now faces new challenges, with the 'Great Lockdown' and with it the collapse of the global stock market predicted by the IMF to rival the Great Depression.

But the Crusaders' objectives (the preservation and protection of personal/family wealth notwithstanding physical distance) remain relevant today in the wake of Covid-19.

Trusts practitioners are seeing an increase in people looking to plan ahead and put their affairs in order to ensure that their wishes are upheld and their loved ones are well taken care of in the event of incapacity or death.

This appears partially due to the increasing death rate, which has focused people's minds, but may also be due to long periods of self-isolation (people have more time on their hands to dedicate to personal matters).

Trustee duties

Trusts have shown dynamism in overcoming practical difficulties whilst ensuring adherence to their relevant regulatory requirements.

There has been and will be changes in family profiles as a result of increased deaths, births, divorces, unemployment and relocation.

Covid-19 has provided individuals and families with a chance to reflect and consider the objectives of their asset protection structures (if any).

Clients are considering whether planning is still relevant and adequate to meet their objectives. 

Trusts practitioners will need to consider whether the longer term objectives of the structures are protected, still fit for purpose and that the structures continue to meet the current or new objectives of clients.

Trustees can exercise their powers to make changes to the trust arrangements in order to suit families as they evolve and according to where they are living.

The pattern (and extent) of distributions from trusts may change as beneficiaries' needs (family, health and employment) develop.

Research at the Institute for Family Studies suggests that following catastrophes such as epidemics and natural disasters, birth rates tend to fall before rising sharply. 

But it remains to be seen whether the forced inactivity of lockdown will boost birth rates.  If there are new babies or minor children, their inheritance can be protected in a trust until they are old enough to manage the monies themselves. 

Similarly, trusts often protect assets when beneficiaries go through bankruptcy or divorce.  

Divorce rates are currently down but are predicted to rise following lockdown. 

Claire Blakemore, a partner in the family law team at Withers, says: "It may be much harder to start the [divorce] process when you are stuck in the same house as your partner for an unknown amount of time to come."

CPD
Approx.30min

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