Setting up a trust fund is a complex process and there are a number of pitfalls that parents should try to avoid when doing so. Here, JMW provides critical insights to avoid them, and offers actionable guidance for parents.
Understanding trust funds
At the most basic level, a trust fund is a specialised financial tool designed to hold and responsibly manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary. These beneficiaries are typically children, with parents or grandparents setting up the trust as a method of safeguarding their future. Trust funds have a long history in the UK, serving as popular vehicles for managing wealth and planning for inheritance.
The benefits that come with setting up a trust fund are numerous. They offer the ability to control the conditions and timeline of asset disbursement, the potential for significant tax advantages, and the assurance that the assets will be protected from any financial missteps the beneficiary may make in the future or claims made by creditors.
Mistakes parents make when setting up trust funds
Despite the benefits, setting up a trust fund comes with challenges and possible missteps. Some of the most common errors include:
Choosing the wrong type of trust
The UK recognises several types of trusts, such as Bare Trusts, Interest in Possession Trusts, Discretionary Trusts and Accumulation Trusts. Each of these trust structures has unique features and benefits that are designed to be best suited to different circumstances.
Choosing an inappropriate type of trust can result in inefficiencies and unintended consequences. For instance, if parents set up the wrong type of trust, the beneficiaries might not be able to access the trust assets as was initially intended.
Failure to communicate with their children about the trust
Transparent communication about the trust fund is an essential part of the process. Parents should explain to their children the purpose of the trust fund, its conditions, and what they should expect when accessing it.
A failure to communicate effectively can lead to misunderstanding, mistrust, or misuse of the trust assets. To prevent this from happening, parents should engage in open and honest conversations with their children about the trust fund, taking into account their age and level of understanding.
Not properly funding the trust
A trust fund must be appropriately funded to fulfil its intended purpose. Both underfunding and overfunding can lead to undesirable outcomes.
Underfunding a trust fund can lead to a shortfall in resources, failing to meet the trust’s intended objectives. Conversely, overfunding can burden the trust with unnecessary tax liabilities and may unintentionally foster dependency on the trust fund rather than encouraging self-reliance.
Deciding on the right amount to place into the trust requires careful thought and a clear understanding of the future needs of the beneficiary, as well as an accurate assessment of the resources available.
How to set up a trust fund properly
Setting up a trust fund requires careful planning and execution. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:
- Identify your goals: clearly define what you hope to achieve with the trust fund. Is it meant for education, to provide a head start on adulthood, or perhaps to support a child with special needs?
- Choose the right type of trust: consulting with a legal advisor will help you understand the best trust structure for your situation.
- Decide on the right amount: analyse your resources and consider your child’s future needs. Remember, the aim should be to provide support, not to create dependency.
- Appoint trustworthy trustees: these people will be responsible for managing the trust assets, so choose those who are trustworthy and capable.
- Communicate with your children: open a dialogue with your children about the trust fund. The discussions should be tailored to their age and understanding.
Setting up a trust fund for your child can be an excellent long-term financial strategy, but it is critical to avoid common mistakes such as choosing an inappropriate type of trust, failing to communicate effectively with your children about the trust, and not properly funding the trust.
While these steps may seem complicated, it is essential to remember the importance of seeking professional advice when setting up a trust fund. The process is complex, and legal and financial advisors can provide the necessary guidance to navigate it smoothly.