When should you not own the assets you've invested your hard-earned money in? Perhaps when it's better to have them in a trust.
When you own things and are in business, or go into a new relationship, there's an element of risk associated with that. A trust can be a good way to manage it.
There are several good reasons to consider a family trust owning things like the family home, shares and other items of wealth. This is a discussion to have with your lawyer but you may be prompted by your accountant or business adviser for good reasons — here are a couple to consider.
1. Business risk. Having your assets in a trust can protect against claims made by creditors in the event of a failed business or other legal complication. But watch out — there could still be some exposure if you use trust assets as security over business loans or if you've tried to transfer assets into a trust before a business goes down the tube.
Intentionally trying to move stuff into a trust when you know you are in trouble can result in those things being clawed back.
2. All about the children. Trusts essentially keep things aside for people, namely the beneficiaries. So if you want to keep some money aside for the kids' university, or maybe you're worried about the inheritance going to your kids' wayward partners, then a trust is useful.
While these are some of the pros there are some things that you'll need to know.
You don't own the assets any more. When your assets are transferred to a trust the trustees are in control of those assets. This is a hard thing for people to understand.
Trustees have a huge responsibility and need to act impartially, understand the trust deed and keep proper records, that is appropriate minutes and financial information for the trust.
Trusts aren't cheap, I've seen them cost up to a few thousand to set up, but usually this will also wrap up wills and transferring property titles at the same time. Consider having an independent trustee, this might be your lawyer or your accountant, to help manage your assets safely.
Jeremy Tauri is an associate at Plus Chartered Accountants.