Inter Vivos Trust

Inter Vivos Trust
Inter Vivos Trust
Full Overview Of Inter Vivos Trust

Inter vivos trusts, also known as living trusts, are essential in estate planning, asset management, and wealth preservation. These trusts are established during the settlor’s lifetime (the person creating the trust) and can offer significant benefits, including probate avoidance, privacy, and potential tax advantages.

Understanding the intricacies of inter vivos trusts is crucial for solicitors, financial advisors, and individuals seeking to manage their assets effectively. This overview provides a detailed examination of inter vivos trusts, covering their definition, types, benefits, legal considerations, and practical applications.

What Is A Inter Vivos Trust?

An inter vivos trust is a legal arrangement created by a settlor during their lifetime, whereby assets are transferred to a trustee to be managed for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Unlike testamentary trusts, which take effect upon the settlor’s death, inter vivos trusts are operational while the settlor is alive. This immediate effect allows the settlor to oversee the management and distribution of their assets, providing flexibility and control.

The parties involved in an inter vivos trust are:

  1. Settlor: The individual who creates the trust and transfers assets into it.
  2. Trustee: The person or entity responsible for managing the trust assets in accordance with the terms set out in the trust deed.
  3. Beneficiary: The person or persons entitled to benefit from the trust assets.

Types of Inter Vivos Trusts

Inter vivos trusts can be broadly categorised into two main types: revocable and irrevocable trusts. Each type serves different purposes and has distinct legal and financial implications.

Revocable Trusts

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, allows the settlor to retain control over the trust assets during their lifetime. The settlor can amend, modify, or revoke the trust anytime, making it a flexible tool for estate planning. Upon the settlor’s death, the trust typically becomes irrevocable, and the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust.

Key Features:

  • Control: The settlor maintains control over the assets and can make changes as circumstances evolve.
  • Probate Avoidance: Assets in a revocable trust do not go through probate, allowing for a more efficient and private distribution process.
  • Tax Implications: During the settlor’s lifetime, the trust assets are considered part of the settlor’s estate for tax purposes. This means there are no immediate tax advantages, but potential estate tax benefits may arise upon the settlor’s death.

Irrevocable Trusts

Once established, an irrevocable trust cannot be altered, amended, or revoked by the settlor. The settlor relinquishes control over the assets, transferring them to the trustee to manage according to the trust’s terms. This type of trust is often used for asset protection, tax planning, and charitable giving.

Key Features:

  • Asset Protection: Assets in an irrevocable trust are typically protected from creditors and legal claims against the settlor.
  • Tax Benefits: Transferring assets to an irrevocable trust can remove them from the settlor’s taxable estate, potentially reducing estate taxes. Additionally, income generated by the trust assets is taxed at the trust level, which may offer tax planning opportunities.
  • Charitable Trusts: Irrevocable trusts are commonly used to create charitable trusts, which provide income to beneficiaries during the settlor’s lifetime and donate the remaining assets to charitable organisations upon the settlor’s death.

Benefits of Inter Vivos Trusts

Inter vivos trusts offer several benefits, making them a popular choice for estate planning and asset management. These advantages include:

Probate Avoidance

One of the primary benefits of inter vivos trusts is the avoidance of probate. Probate is the legal process of validating a will and distributing assets according to its terms, which can be time-consuming, costly, and public. Assets held in an inter vivos trust bypass probate, allowing for a quicker, more private distribution to beneficiaries.


Unlike wills, which become public records upon death, inter vivos trusts offer greater privacy. The trust details, including the assets and beneficiaries, remain confidential, protecting the settlor’s estate from public scrutiny.

Continuity and Flexibility

Inter vivos trusts provide continuity in the management of assets in the event of the settlor’s incapacity or death. The trustee can continue to manage the trust assets without interruption, ensuring the beneficiaries’ needs are met. Revocable trusts, in particular, offer flexibility, allowing the settlor to make changes as their circumstances and objectives evolve.

Asset Protection

Irrevocable inter vivos trusts offer robust asset protection benefits. By transferring assets to an irrevocable trust, the settlor removes them from their personal estate, shielding them from creditors and legal claims. This can be particularly valuable in protecting family wealth and ensuring that assets are preserved for future generations.

Tax Planning

Inter vivos trusts can be an effective tool for tax planning. Irrevocable trusts, in particular, can help reduce estate taxes by removing assets from the settlor’s taxable estate. Additionally, income generated by trust assets can be distributed to beneficiaries in lower tax brackets, potentially reducing the overall tax burden.

Creating and managing inter vivos trusts involves several legal considerations that must be carefully addressed to ensure their effectiveness and compliance with applicable laws.

Trust Deed

The trust deed is the foundational document of an inter vivos trust, outlining the terms and conditions under which the trust operates. It is essential to draft a comprehensive and clear trust deed to avoid ambiguities and potential disputes. Key elements of the trust deed include:

  • Identification of Parties: Clearly identify the settlor, trustee, and beneficiaries.
  • Trust Purpose: Define the purpose and objectives of the trust.
  • Asset Transfer: Detail the assets being transferred to the trust and any conditions related to their management.
  • Trustee Powers and Duties: Specify the powers and duties of the trustee, including investment authority, distribution guidelines, and administrative responsibilities.
  • Amendment and Termination: Outline the procedures for amending or terminating the trust, particularly for revocable trusts.

Trustee Selection

Selecting the right trustee is critical to successfully administrating an inter vivos trust. The trustee must be trustworthy, capable of managing the trust assets, and willing to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Trustees can be individuals, professional trustees, or corporate entities, each with its own advantages and considerations.

Compliance with Legal Requirements

Inter vivos trusts must comply with relevant legal requirements and regulations. This includes adhering to tax laws, reporting obligations, and fiduciary duties. Solicitors play a vital role in ensuring that the trust is structured and administered in accordance with the law, minimising the risk of legal challenges.

Tax Implications

Understanding the tax implications of inter vivos trusts is crucial for effective estate planning. Tax considerations include:

  • Income Tax: Income generated by trust assets may be subject to income tax, either at the trust level or distributed to beneficiaries.
  • Capital Gains Tax: The transfer of assets into an inter vivos trust may trigger capital gains tax, depending on the nature of the assets and the terms of the trust.
  • Inheritance Tax: The impact of inheritance tax on the settlor’s estate must be considered, particularly for irrevocable trusts designed to minimise estate taxes.

Practical Applications

Inter vivos trusts can be utilised in a variety of practical applications to achieve specific estate planning and asset management goals.

Family Wealth Management

Inter vivos trusts are an effective way to manage and preserve family wealth across generations. By placing assets in a trust, the settlor can ensure their wealth is managed prudently and distributed according to their wishes, providing financial security for their descendants.

Business Succession Planning

For business owners, inter vivos trusts can facilitate smooth business succession planning. By transferring business assets to a trust, the settlor can provide for the continued operation of the business and ensure that it passes to the intended successors without disruption.

Charitable Giving

Inter vivos trusts are commonly used for charitable giving. Charitable remainder trusts, for example, allow the settlor to receive income from the trust assets during their lifetime, with the remainder passing to charitable organisations upon their death. This arrangement provides financial benefits to the settlor while supporting charitable causes.

Incapacity Planning

Inter vivos trusts are a valuable tool for incapacity planning. By establishing a trust, the settlor can ensure that their assets are managed and their financial needs are met in the event of incapacity. The trustee can manage the trust assets, avoiding the need for court-appointed guardianship or conservatorship.

Special Needs Planning

Inter vivos trusts can be tailored to provide for beneficiaries with special needs. Special needs trusts, or supplemental needs trusts, are designed to provide financial support to disabled beneficiaries without affecting their eligibility for government benefits. These trusts can be structured to ensure the beneficiary’s quality of life is maintained while preserving their access to essential services.


Inter vivos trusts are powerful and versatile tools in estate planning and asset management. They offer numerous benefits, including probate avoidance, privacy, continuity, asset protection, and tax planning opportunities. Whether revocable or irrevocable, these trusts provide a flexible and effective means of managing and preserving wealth during the settlor’s lifetime and beyond.

Creating and managing inter vivos trusts requires careful consideration of legal, tax, and practical factors. A well-drafted trust deed, selecting a capable trustee, and compliance with legal requirements are essential to ensuring the trust’s success. Solicitors and financial advisors are critical in guiding individuals through the complexities of establishing and administering inter vivos trusts, helping them achieve their estate planning objectives and secure their financial legacy.

By understanding inter vivos trusts’ intricacies and practical applications, individuals can make informed decisions about their estate planning strategies, ensuring that their assets are managed effectively and their wishes are honoured. Whether for family wealth management, business succession, charitable giving, incapacity planning, or special needs support, inter vivos trusts offer a robust framework for achieving various financial and personal goals.

Inter Vivos Trust FAQ'S

An Inter Vivos Trust, also known as a living trust, is a trust created during the lifetime of the settlor (the person who establishes the trust). It is designed to manage and protect assets during the settlor’s lifetime and distribute them according to their wishes after death.

Benefits include avoiding probate, providing privacy since trust documents are not public, allowing for flexible management of assets, and potentially reducing estate taxes. It can also provide for incapacity planning, ensuring assets are managed if the settlor becomes unable to do so.

A trustee can be an individual, such as a family member or friend, or a professional trustee, such as a solicitor or trust company. The settlor can also be a trustee, although it is often advisable to appoint additional trustees.

Almost any type of asset can be placed in an Inter Vivos Trust, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, business interests, and personal property. The assets must be legally transferred into the trust.

Yes, an Inter Vivos Trust can be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust can be amended or revoked by the settlor at any time. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or revoked once it has been established, except under certain conditions or by court order.

Assets held in an Inter Vivos Trust are not subject to probate because they are legally owned by the trust, not the settlor. Upon the settlor’s death, the trustee can distribute the assets directly to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust.

Yes, there can be tax implications, including potential inheritance tax, capital gains tax, and income tax. The specific tax treatment depends on the nature of the trust and the assets involved. Professional tax advice is recommended to manage these implications.

An Inter Vivos Trust can offer some protection from creditors, particularly if it is an irrevocable trust. However, if the trust is established to defraud creditors, it may not provide protection. Legal advice is essential to understanding the extent of protection offered.

If the settlor becomes incapacitated, the trustee (or successor trustee) continues to manage the trust assets according to the terms of the trust. This ensures that the settlor’s financial affairs are handled without the need for a court-appointed guardian.

To set up an Inter Vivos Trust, you should consult with a solicitor who specialises in trust and estate planning. The solicitor will help draft the trust document, transfer assets into the trust, and ensure that the trust meets legal requirements and the settlor’s goals.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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