Uses and Advantages of Jersey Trusts
Jersey trusts are used principally to provide for the protection of the trust assets and to minimise or defer the tax payable on the income and the capital gains of the trust assets, and on the transfer of those assets.
It is most important that, at the time of creating the trust, the Settlor should consider the taxation, exchange control and other legal consequences flowing from the creation of the trust, both in his country of residence and nationality and in the country or countries of residence of the beneficiaries, where necessary, the Settlor should obtain appropriate professional advice as to the consequences of establishing the trust.
Trusts established in Jersey can be used for a variety of purposes, some of which are listed below:
Anonymity and confidentiality
The separation of legal and beneficial ownership (which is the hallmark of a trust) means that the trustee and not the beneficiaries will be the registered owner of the trust assets. For example, if the trust assets comprise of shares in a company, it is the trustee that will be recorded as the owner in the company’s share register and the register will not normally indicate the name of the trust unless this is specifically requested by the trustee.
The trust instrument itself is not a public document and is not required to be registered in any official or public register maintained by the authorities except in the case of certain unit trusts.
In order to offer even greater anonymity, at least on the face of the trust instrument, the trustee may execute the trust instrument as a declaration of trust. As a result, the name of the settlor will not appear in the document. It must be borne in mind, however, that any organisation carrying out trust company business in Jersey, which includes acting as the trustee of a trust or arranging for another person to act as the trustee of a trust, is subject to anti-money laundering legislation. Such legislation may require that the settlor of the trust assets and the significant beneficiaries of the trust provide evidence of their identities to the organisation in question.
Estate and succession planning
Continuity of ownership
Trusts can be used to ensure the continuity of ownership of a particular asset, for example, a family business. If a person has established a successful business there is a possibility that on his or her death the ownership of the business may be split between a number of people (possibly even individuals outside of the family) as a result of the rules of succession applying to his or her estate. This could have a detrimental effect on the running of the business. If the family business is instead settled into a trust, it will not form part of the settlor’s estate on his or her death. Instead, the trustees will own the business and will act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust (the trustee is usually relieved of the responsibility to become involved in the management of the company by the terms of the trust). The settlor can name the persons who are to be beneficiaries at the time the trust is established and the settlor therefore has greater control over who will benefit from the family business. In the case of a fixed trust, as opposed to a discretionary trust, the settlor can have complete control as to who will benefit from the family business.
The legitimate avoidance of taxes and formalities
Because assets settled into trust do not form part of the settlor’s assets on death a grant of probate or other similar formalities will not be required in order to deal with the assets after his or her death. Another possible benefit which might arise from the fact that trust assets are separate from the settlor’s assets is that estate duties and taxes payable on the settlor’s estate on the settlor’s death may be minimised or avoided.
The avoidance of inheritance restrictions
A good example of one of the benefits of a Jersey trust is the avoidance of forced heirship provisions. Forced heirship may be described as a legal rule which restricts the right of a person to dispose of his or her property as they wish upon death so as to preserve that property for distribution to specified heirs. Such forced heirship rules may not prevent the alienation of a person’s assets during their lifetime but may operate so as to return certain assets which have been disposed of by that person during their lifetime to their estate for the purposes of distributing them to specified heirs. Such rules are often found in civil law jurisdictions. The Trusts (Jersey) Law 1984, as amended, deals with such issues. In relation to persons domiciled outside Jersey, it states that forced heirship or any other similar rule will not affect any transfer or disposition by such persons into a Jersey trust. As a result, the settlor can place his assets in trust free of any restrictions. However, additional practical steps should also be taken to protect the trust from forced heirship rules, for instance by ensuring so far as is possible, that the trustees and beneficiaries are not resident in countries with such rules and that the trust assets or underlying assets are not situated in such countries either.
Trusts can be used to protect family wealth in the event of divorce. Although the matrimonial courts have demonstrated that a husband and wife cannot salt assets away in a trust to avoid his or her obligations to the other spouse, or claim that they have no funds available to meet such obligations because they are in trust, careful planning involving the creation of Jersey trusts can help to preserve the wealth of the family (such as a family business from which the whole family benefit) from attack by the spouse of one beneficiary.
Trusts with a Jersey resident trustee often enjoy tax benefits. Although Jersey resident trustees are, in theory, liable to Jersey tax in respect of all of their income arising as a result of them acting in their capacity as trustees, by long standing extra-statutory concession such trustees are not liable to Jersey income tax on foreign sourced income or Jersey bank interest if the settlor and beneficiaries of the trust are not resident in Jersey. Jersey does not have capital gains tax or inheritance tax.
Trusts may be used for the legitimate avoidance of tax in other jurisdictions. This applies not just to taxes payable on the death of the settlor or any of the beneficiaries but also to taxes payable during their lifetimes. For example, because assets transferred into a trust do not form part of the settlor’s assets, this might mean that he may not be liable to tax on those assets – potentially reducing the amount of the settlor’s tax bill. Tax advice should always be taken when establishing a trust.
Jersey law will not enable a debtor to evade his existing creditors by settling assets into trust if the debtor is insolvent at the time the assets are transferred into trust or if he or she becomes insolvent as a consequence of the transfer and he transfers the assets with the intention of putting them beyond the reach of such creditors.
However, if a person knows that he or she has no actual, future or contingent creditors at the time the assets are settled into trust and provided the trust is established primarily for a purpose other than asset protection (for example, estate planning) a Jersey trust should protect trust assets from the claims of subsequent creditors of the settlor.
Trusts can also be used to provide a different sort of asset protection. If a person is situated in a country suffering from political unrest or instability he or she can protect their assets (for example, against possible seizure by the authorities of that country) by settling them into trust – provided, of course, that the trustees and the trust assets are themselves in a stable jurisdiction. Jersey is just such a jurisdiction. It is politically stable with close links to the UK and the rest of Europe. Jersey has a highly competent and well regulated professional financial services industry, and a highly competent, stable and professionally operated court system. In addition Jersey has well developed confidentiality laws which provide effective safeguards in relation to the identities of the settlor and beneficiaries of the trust which may bring peace of mind in relation to issues of personal security.
- 1 Jersey Trusts Uses and Advantages of Jersey Trusts
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