Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Trusting types set alarm bells ringing

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Trusts can protect assets from creditors and, of course, depending upon what's specified in the trust deed, may also serve to disadvantage a spouse in the event of a marriage breakup. Photo / Thinkstock
Trusts can protect assets from creditors and, of course, depending upon what's specified in the trust deed, may also serve to disadvantage a spouse in the event of a marriage breakup. Photo / Thinkstock

Women experiencing relationship difficulties could do a lot worse than confide their woes to me. Not because I'm any good at marriage counselling; quite the reverse, in fact. I have one solution to pretty much all of life's problems and that's to get rid of whatever's causing the grief.

There'll be none of this new-age, let's-talk-it-through-and-reach-a-solution approach for me. I'm a kick-him-to-the-kerb, you're-far-too-good-for-him-anyway kind of therapist. Although at the time I think I'm being empathetic and supportive I'm probably actually being dogmatic and bossy.

It's little wonder then that most of these women, having divulged their problems to me, head straight back into the arms of their loved one, have a major reconciliation and seem to live happily ever after - which is very nice for them but not so nice for me after some of the toxic things I've said about their other halves.

But what I did learn from these discussions is the naivety some people have about the relationship's finances.

In the same breath she told me about her marriage problems, one woman mentioned her husband had recently set up a trust for their assets.

"Gosh, you probably need to talk to a lawyer about that," I said, as alarm bells dinged furiously inside my head.

"No, he told me it's all fine because I'm a beneficiary of the trust," she replied.

At that point I was lost for words that someone would actually take this sort of advice from the very person whose interests are directly opposed to hers.

I was also aghast that she'd been led to believe that being noted as a beneficiary on a trust deed gave her protection. While it allows for the possibility of a discretionary trust's assets to be distributed to her, it isn't sufficient to ensure that they are.

To have any say over how the assets of a trust are distributed, one needs to be appointed a trustee of said trust. To further complicate matters, if there is a settling trustee (this is the person who starts the trust) noted in the trust deed he or she may have the power to unilaterally remove trustees.

Relationship property specialist, Anne Hinton, QC, warned about trusts in my Canvas article entitled Divorce New Zealand Style.

"Under the current law, I think it's quite important that you don't agree to any trust being set up because that introduces some enormous complications - it makes it much harder for the person who doesn't have control of the money in the relationship to then try to recover their share," she said.

"You should be opposed to any assets being acquired by a trust unless you've been well advised on that."

People typically use trusts as a way of preserving assets. Trusts can protect assets from creditors and, of course, depending upon what's specified in the trust deed, may also serve to disadvantage a spouse in the event of a marriage breakup.

You have been warned. My relationship advice may be dodgy but I promise that I've done my homework on trusts.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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