Simple Trust

Simple Trust
Simple Trust
Full Overview Of Simple Trust

Here at DLS Solicitors, we understand that trust law can seem complicated at times. However, simple trusts are an essential and approachable aspect of estate planning that offers significant advantages. In this detailed overview, we seek to clarify the concept of simple trusts by examining their structure, uses, benefits, and the legal framework that governs them in England.

Exploring Simple Trusts

Definition and Basic Structure

A simple trust is a type of trust where the trustee must distribute all income generated by the trust’s assets to the beneficiaries. Unlike more complex trusts, a simple trust does not allow the accumulation of income within the trust. Its primary purpose is to ensure that beneficiaries receive the income generated by the trust’s assets promptly.

The basic structure of a simple trust involves three key parties:

  1. Settlor: The individual who creates the trust and transfers assets into it.
  2. Trustee: The person or institution responsible for managing the trust’s assets and distributing the income to the beneficiaries.
  3. Beneficiaries: The individuals or entities entitled to receive the income generated by the trust’s assets.

Legal Framework

The legal framework governing simple trusts in England primarily derives from the Trustee Act 2000 and the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TLATA). These statutes provide the foundation for the duties and powers of trustees and the rights of beneficiaries. Additionally, common law principles play a significant role in shaping trust law.

Purposes and Uses of Simple Trusts

Income Distribution

The primary purpose of a simple trust is to ensure the regular distribution of income to the beneficiaries. This can be particularly beneficial in scenarios where the settlor wishes to provide a steady stream of income to family members, such as children or a surviving spouse. The simplicity of the trust ensures that income is not retained or reinvested within the trust, but rather, is promptly distributed as intended.

Estate Planning

Simple trusts are often utilised in estate planning to manage and distribute assets efficiently. By placing assets into a simple trust, the settlor can ensure that the income generated by those assets is distributed to beneficiaries without the need for complex administrative procedures. This can simplify the management of the estate and provide clarity and certainty to the beneficiaries.

Tax Efficiency

Simple trusts can also offer tax advantages. The income generated by the trust’s assets is typically taxed at the beneficiary’s tax rate, which may be lower than the settlor’s or the trust’s tax rate. This can result in overall tax savings, particularly if the beneficiaries are in a lower tax bracket. Additionally, income distribution can help mitigate potential inheritance tax liabilities by reducing the value of the settlor’s estate.

Rights and Responsibilities


Duties of Trustees

Trustees of a simple trust have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. This duty encompasses several key responsibilities:

  1. Prudent Management: Trustees must manage the trust’s assets with prudence and care, ensuring that the assets generate a reasonable return while preserving their value.
  2. Impartiality: Trustees must act impartially and fairly, considering the interests of all beneficiaries when making decisions.
  3. Income Distribution: Trustees are required to distribute all income generated by the trust’s assets to the beneficiaries in a timely manner, in accordance with the terms of the trust.
  4. Accountability: Trustees must maintain accurate records of the trust’s assets, income, and distributions, and provide regular reports to the beneficiaries.

Powers of Trustees

The Trustee Act 2000 grants trustees certain powers to facilitate the effective management of the trust. These powers include investing the trust’s assets, appointing agents, and delegating certain administrative tasks. However, trustees must exercise these powers within the bounds of their fiduciary duties and in accordance with the terms of the trust.


Beneficiaries of a simple trust have several key rights, including:

  1. Right to Income: Beneficiaries are entitled to receive the income generated by the trust’s assets, as specified in the trust deed.
  2. Right to Information: Beneficiaries have the right to be informed about the management of the trust, including the assets held, income generated, and distributions made. Trustees are obligated to provide regular reports and respond to reasonable requests for information.
  3. Right to Accountability: Beneficiaries can hold trustees accountable for their actions and seek legal recourse if the trustees fail to fulfil their duties or act in a manner that is detrimental to the beneficiaries’ interests.

Advantages of Simple Trusts

Clarity and Simplicity

One of the main advantages of a simple trust is its straightforward nature. The requirement to distribute all income generated by the trust’s assets ensures that beneficiaries receive regular payments without the complexities associated with accumulating or reinvesting income. This clarity can be particularly beneficial for beneficiaries who rely on the income for their day-to-day living expenses.


While the structure of a simple trust is inherently straightforward, it can be tailored to meet the specific needs and wishes of the settlor. For example, the trust deed can specify the frequency of income distributions, the method of calculating income, and any conditions that must be met by the beneficiaries to receive income. This flexibility allows the settlor to create a trust that aligns with their overall estate planning objectives.

Reduced Administrative Burden

The simplicity of a simple trust can result in a reduced administrative burden for trustees. With no need to manage the accumulation or reinvestment of income, trustees can focus on managing the trust’s assets and ensuring that income is distributed promptly and accurately. This can result in lower administrative costs and a more efficient management process.

Practical Considerations

Establishing a Simple Trust

When establishing a simple trust, careful consideration should be given when drafting the trust deed. The trust deed is the foundational document that outlines the terms and conditions of the trust, including the duties of the trustee and the rights of the beneficiaries. It is essential to ensure that the trust deed is clear, comprehensive, and legally sound to avoid future disputes or misunderstandings.

  1. Selection of Trustees: Choosing the right trustees is crucial. Trustees should be individuals or institutions that the settlor trusts to manage the trust’s assets prudently and impartially. Trustees should also have the necessary expertise and experience to fulfil their duties effectively.
  2. Identifying Beneficiaries: The trust deed should clearly identify the beneficiaries and outline the terms under which they are entitled to receive income. This includes specifying any conditions or requirements that beneficiaries must meet to qualify for income distributions.
  3. Defining the Trust’s Assets: The trust deed should describe the assets being transferred into the trust. This can include cash, investments, real estate, and other valuable property.

Managing a Simple Trust

Effective management of a simple trust requires a proactive and diligent approach by the trustees. Key considerations include:

  1. Investment Strategy: Trustees should develop an investment strategy that aligns with the objectives of the trust and the needs of the beneficiaries. This strategy should balance the need for income generation with capital preservation.
  2. Regular Reviews: Trustees should conduct regular reviews of the trust’s assets, income, and distributions to ensure that the trust is being managed effectively and in accordance with the terms of the trust deed.
  3. Communication: Trustees should maintain open and transparent communication with the beneficiaries, providing regular updates and responding to any queries or concerns promptly.

Addressing Potential Challenges

While simple trusts are designed to be straightforward, potential challenges can still arise. These challenges may include disputes between beneficiaries, difficulties in managing the trust’s assets, and changes in the beneficiaries’ circumstances.

  1. Dispute Resolution: To address potential disputes, the trust deed can include provisions for dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. This can provide a structured process for resolving conflicts without resorting to litigation.
  2. Adaptability: Trustees should be prepared to adapt to changes in the beneficiaries’ circumstances, such as financial needs or health conditions. This may require a flexible approach to income distributions and a willingness to revisit the terms of the trust if necessary.
  3. Legal Compliance: Trustees must ensure the trust complies with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements. This includes adhering to tax obligations, maintaining accurate records, and fulfilling reporting requirements.


Simple trusts provide a straightforward and effective way to manage and distribute income-generating assets. By ensuring regular income distribution to beneficiaries, simple trusts offer financial stability and clarity while reducing administrative burdens. At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert guidance on establishing and managing simple trusts, helping our clients navigate trust law complexities with confidence and ease.

Whether you are considering setting up a simple trust as part of your estate planning strategy or seeking advice on managing an existing trust, our experienced team is here to assist you. We understand the importance of creating a trust that aligns with your objectives and provides for your beneficiaries in a transparent and efficient manner. Our comprehensive legal support ensures that your simple trust is well-structured, compliant, and capable of delivering the intended benefits to your beneficiaries.

Simple Trust FAQ'S

A simple trust, also known as a bare trust, is one in which the beneficiary has an absolute right to the capital and income of the trust. The trustee holds the assets in their name but acts as a nominee for the beneficiary, who can demand the assets at any time.

In a simple trust, the beneficiary has full control over the trust’s assets and income, with no discretionary powers held by the trustee. Other types of trusts, such as discretionary trusts or fixed-interest trusts, give trustees more control over how and when the assets and income are distributed.

Any individual can be a beneficiary of a Simple Trust. Often, simple trusts are used for minors or individuals who are unable to manage assets themselves, but legally, they can be used for anyone.

The income and capital gains of a simple trust are taxed directly in the hands of the beneficiary, as they have an absolute entitlement to the trust assets. The trustee does not pay tax on the trust’s income or gains.

A simple trust is set up by a settlor transferring assets to a trustee with clear instructions that these assets are to be held for the beneficiary. The terms are usually straightforward and outline the trustee’s role in managing the assets for the beneficiary’s benefit.

Generally, the terms of a simple trust cannot be changed once it is set up because the beneficiary has an absolute right to the trust assets. However, the trust can be terminated if the beneficiary decides to take control of the assets.

Trustees must manage the trust assets prudently and in the best interests of the beneficiary. They must follow the terms of the trust and ensure the assets are available to the beneficiary upon request. Trustees must also keep accurate records and provide information to the beneficiary as needed.

When the beneficiary reaches adulthood (typically 18 in the UK), they can demand control of the trust assets. The trustee must transfer the assets to the beneficiary, who then has full legal and beneficial ownership.

Simple trusts are not typically used for complex inheritance tax planning because the assets are treated as part of the beneficiary’s estate. However, they can still be part of a broader estate planning strategy, especially for minors.

A simple trust can be terminated by the beneficiary at any time since they have an absolute right to the trust assets. The trustee must transfer the assets to the beneficiary when requested. The trust also naturally terminates if all the trust assets are distributed to the beneficiary.


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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