Last Updated on 19.5.23 by Michael Smoult
In recent times, there has been a significant surge in clients seeking guidance on asset protection during our initial consultations. It’s becoming increasingly important for individuals to ensure a seamless transition of their assets to their chosen beneficiaries, both for immediate post-death administration and long-term planning.
Trusts have emerged as a valuable tool in safeguarding beneficiaries from potential threats such as divorce or insolvency while enabling effective future planning.
The Concept of Transferring Assets to Trusts
At the heart of asset protection lies the principle of transferring one’s assets into a trust. By doing so, the value of the client’s home is legally entrusted to a group of individuals known as trustees, who act on behalf of the client’s beneficiaries. Typically, the client themselves is one of the trustees. The trustees become responsible for managing the home for the benefit of the designated beneficiaries. A trust document identifies the beneficiaries, and a confidential letter of wishes provides guidance to the trustees on decision-making regarding the property, though the letter is not legally binding.
Let’s consider the case of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, a couple in their sixties with two children and grandchildren. To ensure equitable inheritance, they establish a trust, transferring the value of their family home to it. Tragically, Mrs. Johnson passes away suddenly. Several years later, Mr. Johnson remarries.
Benefits of Trusts in Controlling the Property
Due to the trustees’ control over the property and their awareness of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s wishes outlined in the trust, they possess the authority to determine the course of action regarding the property. The letter of wishes serves as a guiding document for the trustees. Consequently, the trustees can make decisions aligned with the couple’s intentions, thereby safeguarding their children’s inheritance, irrespective of Mr. Johnson’s remarriage.
The Complexity of Advice in Asset Protection
It is crucial to emphasize that seeking proper legal advice from a competent solicitor is paramount when considering asset transfer to a trust. While there are will writers and other limited companies offering such services, the intricacies involved necessitate the expertise of a fully trained professional. Failing to receive accurate advice or setting up the trust improperly can result in clients being inadequately informed about the legalities of the trust.
Asset protection and ensuring the smooth transfer of assets to chosen individuals have become pressing concerns for many clients. Trusts offer a robust solution by entrusting assets to dedicated trustees, safeguarding beneficiaries from potential risks, and facilitating long-term planning.
However, it is imperative to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable solicitor to navigate the complexities involved and gain a comprehensive understanding of the trust’s legal aspects. By doing so, clients can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with effectively protecting their assets and securing their legacy.
Partner & Head of Wills, Trusts & Probate, Wills, Trusts & Probate