Some recent research indicated a rise in families using discretionary trusts instead of pre-nuptial agreements to protect family assets.
Typically, people think of pre-nuptial agreements as the standard approach for couples to take when considering marriage. They are designed to separate personal property and wealth accumulated prior to marriage and safeguard it in the event of a divorce.
However, although a court will take a prenup into consideration if a couple are divorcing, they are not legally binding in the UK.
Whilst courts tend to uphold them, there are many factors which can result in them not being upheld.
Equally, prenups still hold a certain stigma and couples and families can often feel uncomfortable discussing them.
On the other hand, discretionary trusts are viewed more as a planning tool and allow parents to protect family wealth and assets against a future divorce.
Typically, in this type of trust, the parents will set themselves up as trustees. As well as having full control over the assets, they can also decide who can benefit from the trust whilst maintaining discretion to make payments or transfer assets from the trust if they wish.
Each parent can put up to £325,000 into a discretionary trust during their lifetime. (This figure may be reduced if other gifts have been made). As long as the value of the gifts made and the value being put into the trust do not exceed £325,000 in the last seven years there will be no immediate inheritance tax to pay either. If the parents live for another seven years, these assets will not form part of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.
In light of these factors, discretionary trusts are certainly something that families should consider. Not only can it protect family wealth in the event of a divorce later on, it can also help to reduce a future inheritance tax bill.
Whilst they are complex, setting up a trust can be straightforward if you received the right advice. As well as minimising tax responsibilities a trust can also help to protect your assets in the future.
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