Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How a Discretionary (Family) Trust works

Cassandra Townsend, Lawyer

We've recently received a number of customer queries about how a family trust works and how to set up a family trust through Cleardocs.

A family trust is a type of discretionary trust generally set up to hold a family's assets or conduct a family business. A family trust structure can assist in providing asset protection and certain tax advantages.

Information on family trusts and family trust elections are available on our website.

Below are some common customer queries about family trusts:

1.     Can the sole trustee of the discretionary (family) trust also be the sole beneficiary?

2.     Can a trust be a beneficiary under a family trust?
The Cleardocs Discretionary Trust deed is only suitable if you wish to name individuals, local companies or incorporated associations as beneficiaries. Maddocks does not recommend that trustees be named beneficiaries because distributions from one trust to another may raise issues in relation to the rule against perpetuities.

3.     Can I update the deed of my discretionary trust?
Yes, however Cleardocs does not have a product to update the deed of a Discretionary Trust. If you wish to amend your discretionary (family) trust, you should engage a lawyer to draft the changes. The lawyer will need to ensure the changes do not trigger the creation of a new trust and that the relevant variation process described in the deed is followed.

4.     Is the Cleardocs Discretionary Trust compliant with the Bamford ruling and/or change to laws regarding streaming provisions for trusts?
o    The deed contains an appropriate definition of income - since 13 December 2004, Cleardocs deeds adopt a definition equivalent to taxable income ("net income" under taxation law).
o    The deed contains a specific power for the trustee to determine whether receipts are to be treated as on account of capital or income. All Cleardocs deeds since Cleardocs launched in 2002 provide this discretion.
o    The deed contains a specific power for the trustee to determine whether to adopt an alternate definition of income in respect of a year of income by signing a minute to that effect (or taking some other action). Again, this feature was introduced into Cleardocs deeds in December 2004.


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