Life Interest Trust

Life Interest Trust
Life Interest Trust
Full Overview Of Life Interest Trust

A life interest trust, also known as an interest in possession trust, is a legal arrangement designed to provide financial security for a beneficiary during their lifetime. Upon their death, the remaining assets within the trust are transferred to other specified beneficiaries. This type of trust is commonly used in estate planning to ensure that loved ones are cared for while preserving assets for future generations.

At DLS Solicitors, we have extensive experience advising clients on the intricacies and benefits of life interest trusts, tailoring them to meet individual needs and objectives.

What is a Life Interest Trust?

A life interest trust gives a beneficiary, called the life tenant, the right to receive income from the trust’s assets or to use its property during their lifetime.

However, they do not have the right to sell or make money from the trust’s main assets. After the life tenant’s death, the remaining assets are passed on to the remaindermen or residual beneficiaries, as specified in the trust deed.

Key Components and Structure

  • Settlor: The individual who establishes the trust and transfers assets into it.
  • Trustees: Persons or entities appointed to manage the trust in accordance with the trust deed and for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
  • Life Tenant: The beneficiary entitled to the income or use of the trust property during their lifetime.
  • Remaindermen: The beneficiaries who are entitled to the trust assets after the life tenant’s death.

Common Uses of Life Interest Trusts

  • Provision for a Spouse or Partner: Often used to ensure a surviving spouse or partner is provided for without giving them control over the entire estate.
  • Preservation of Family Assets: Helps maintain family wealth and ensure it passes to children or other descendants.
  • Inheritance Tax Planning: Can be structured to potentially reduce the inheritance tax liability.

Establishing a Life Interest Trust

Setting up a life interest trust involves several key steps:

  1. Drafting the Trust Deed: This document outlines the terms of the trust, including the identity of the life tenant, the remaindermen, and the trustees, as well as the specifics of the trust’s operation.
  2. Funding the Trust: The settlor transfers assets into the trust. These can include cash, investments, property, or other assets.
  3. Appointing Trustees: Trustees must be chosen with care, as they have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the life tenant and the remaindermen.

Benefits of a Life Interest Trust

  • Financial Security: Provides a steady income or use of property for the life tenant.
  • Control and Protection of Assets: Ensures assets are preserved for future beneficiaries.
  • Tax Efficiency: Can be utilised to mitigate inheritance tax implications.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Complexity and Costs: Establishing and managing a trust can be complex and costly.
  • Restrictions on Life Tenant: The life tenant may feel limited as they cannot access the capital.
  • Trustee Responsibilities: Trustees must manage the trust effectively, balancing the interests of the life tenant and remaindermen, which can be challenging.
  • Inheritance Tax (IHT): The value of the trust’s assets is generally included in the life tenant’s estate for IHT purposes. Proper planning is essential to mitigating tax liabilities.
  • Capital Gains Tax (CGT): Trustees may be liable for CGT on any disposals of trust assets. However, certain reliefs may apply.
  • Income Tax: Income generated by the trust is typically taxed at the life tenant’s rate.

Case Study

To illustrate the practical application of a Life Interest Trust, consider the following scenario:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith wish to ensure that their estate is used to support each other while preserving the inheritance for their children. Upon Mr. Smith’s death, his share of the family home and other assets is placed into a Life Interest Trust, with Mrs. Smith as the life tenant. She continues to live in the home and receive income from the trust’s investments. Upon her death, the remaining trust assets are distributed to their children.

This arrangement ensures that Mrs. Smith is financially secure while protecting the estate for the children, avoiding potential issues if she were to remarry or if there were concerns about her financial management.

Trust Management and Trustee Duties

Trustees play a crucial role in the successful operation of a Life Interest Trust. Their duties include:

  1. Fiduciary Responsibility: Acting in the best interests of all beneficiaries.
  2. Investment Management: Ensuring the trust’s assets are invested prudently to generate income for the life tenant while preserving capital for the remaindermen.
  3. Compliance: Adhering to legal and tax obligations, including filing necessary returns and maintaining accurate records.

Customisation and Flexibility

Life Interest Trusts can be tailored to meet specific needs and circumstances. For example:

  1. Flexible Provisions: The trust deed can include provisions for varying income levels based on the life tenant’s needs.
  2. Replacement of Life Tenant: In certain cases, provisions can be made for replacing the life tenant if they are unable to benefit from the trust.
  3. Conditional Benefits: The trust can specify conditions under which beneficiaries receive benefits, such as reaching a certain age or achieving specific milestones.

Challenges and Dispute Resolution

Despite their benefits, Life Interest Trusts can sometimes lead to disputes, particularly between the life tenant and remaindermen. Common issues include:

  1. Income Levels: Disagreements over the appropriate level of income distribution.
  2. Investment Strategies: Conflicts regarding the management of the trust’s assets.
  3. Distribution of Assets: Disputes over the timing and manner of distributing trust assets upon the life tenant’s death.

Effective communication, clear drafting of the trust deed, and the use of professional trustees can mitigate these challenges. Additionally, mediation and legal advice can be sought to resolve disputes amicably.


Life Interest Trusts are a valuable tool in estate planning. They offer a balance between providing for a loved one and preserving assets for future generations. At DLS Solicitors, we recognise the importance of personalised advice in creating a trust that meets your specific needs. Whether you aim to provide financial security for a spouse, protect family wealth, or plan for tax efficiency, our team is here to guide you through the process with expertise and understanding.

By carefully considering your objectives, the needs of your beneficiaries, and the legal and tax implications, we can help you establish a Life Interest Trust that offers peace of mind and long-term benefits. Trusts are intricate instruments, and our role is to simplify the complexities, ensuring your estate planning is robust, flexible, and effective.

If you are considering a Life Interest Trust, we encourage you to seek professional advice to explore the best options for your unique situation.

At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to providing comprehensive legal support, ensuring that your trust is set up and managed to achieve your goals and protect your legacy.

Life Interest Trust FAQ'S

A life interest trust is a trust arrangement where a beneficiary, known as the life tenant, has the right to receive income generated by the trust assets or use of the property during their lifetime. After the life tenant’s death, the trust assets pass to other beneficiaries, known as remaindermen.

A life interest trust can be set up by anyone, typically through a will or a trust deed, who wishes to provide for a beneficiary during their lifetime while preserving the trust assets for future beneficiaries.

Benefits include:

  • Providing financial support to the life tenant.
  • Preserving the capital for future beneficiaries.
  • Potentially reducing inheritance tax liabilities.
  • Protecting assets from being spent or mismanaged by the life tenant.

The income generated by the trust is taxed as the life tenant’s income, meaning they are responsible for paying income tax on it. The trust may also be subject to inheritance tax (IHT) on the death of the life tenant and potentially at the trust’s ten-year anniversary.

A life interest trust can only be revoked or altered if the trust deed or will includes provisions allowing for changes or if all beneficiaries agree to the changes. Any amendments must comply with trust law and may have tax implications.

When the life tenant dies, their interest in the trust ends, and the trust assets are transferred to the remaindermen as specified in the trust deed or will. This transfer may trigger inheritance tax and other tax obligations.

Trustees must manage the trust assets prudently, ensure that income is paid to the life tenant, preserve the capital for the remaindermen, comply with legal and tax obligations, and act in the best interests of all beneficiaries.

Generally, a life tenant only has the right to the income generated by the trust assets or the use of the property. They do not have the right to access or use the trust capital unless the trust deed explicitly allows for this.

A life interest trust can protect assets from being used to pay for care home fees by ensuring that the trust capital is preserved for future beneficiaries. The life tenant’s right to income or use of the property does not affect the trust capital, which remains safeguarded within the trust.

Consulting a solicitor specialising in trust law and estate planning is recommended for specific advice and assistance with life interest trusts.


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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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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