Trust Deed

Trust Deed
Trust Deed
Full Overview Of Trust Deed

Trust deeds play a crucial role in financial planning and asset management, especially in the UK. They serve several important purposes, including protecting assets, managing estate planning, and facilitating financial agreements.

At DLS Solicitors, we understand that trust deeds can be complex. This comprehensive overview aims to clarify trust deeds, outlining their purpose, types, benefits, and legal implications.

What is a Trust Deed?

A trust deed is a legally binding document that establishes a trust. Essentially, a trust is a fiduciary relationship in which one party, known as the trustee, holds legal title to property or assets for the benefit of another party, the beneficiary. The person who creates the trust is known as the settlor. Trust deeds are instrumental in managing and protecting assets, ensuring they are used according to the settlor’s wishes.

Key Elements of a Trust Deed

  • The Settlor: The individual who creates the trust and transfers assets into it.
  • The Trustee: The person or entity responsible for managing the trust assets and executing the terms of the trust deed.
  • The Beneficiary: The person or group of people who benefit from the trust.
  • Trust Property: The assets or property placed into the trust.
  • Terms of the Trust: Detailed instructions on how the trust is to be managed and how the assets are to be distributed.

Types of Trust Deeds

Trust Deeds can be categorised into various types based on their purpose and the nature of the trust arrangement. Some of the most common types include:

Bare Trusts

Also known as simple trusts, bare trusts hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary until they reach a specified age. The beneficiary has an absolute right to both the capital and the income the trust generates once they come of age.

Discretionary Trusts

In discretionary trusts, the trustee has the discretion to decide how the trust’s income and capital are distributed among the beneficiaries. This type of trust offers flexibility, allowing the trustee to respond to changing circumstances and needs of the beneficiaries.

Interest in Possession Trusts

These trusts provide the beneficiary with an immediate and absolute right to the income generated by the trust property, but not to the capital. The capital is usually preserved for future beneficiaries.

Charitable Trusts

Charitable trusts are set up for charitable purposes and benefit the public or a section of the public. Due to their charitable nature, these trusts often enjoy certain tax advantages.

Protective Trusts

Protective trusts are designed to protect the beneficiary’s interest by converting into a discretionary trust if certain conditions are met, such as the beneficiary facing bankruptcy or legal action.

Accumulation and Maintenance Trusts

These trusts allow income to be accumulated and added to the trust’s capital. They are often used for minor beneficiaries, providing financial support for education or maintenance until they reach a certain age.

Creating a Trust Deed

Creating a trust deed involves several critical steps, each requiring careful consideration and professional advice:

Determine the Purpose of the Trust

The first step is to establish the trust’s purpose. This will influence the type of trust deed created and the terms and conditions included.

Select the Trustees

Choosing the right trustees is crucial, as they will manage the trust assets and make decisions in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Trustees can be individuals or corporate entities.

Define the Beneficiaries

Clearly identifying the beneficiaries and their respective interests is essential to avoid future disputes and ensure the trust operates smoothly.

Draft the Trust Deed

The trust deed must be drafted precisely, outlining all necessary terms, conditions, and powers of the trustees. This document will govern the operation of the trust.

Transfer of Assets

The settlor must transfer the designated assets into the trust. This step formalises the trust’s creation and transfers legal ownership to the trustees.

Register the Trust (if applicable)

Certain types of trusts may need to be registered with relevant authorities, such as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), particularly if they involve tax implications.

Benefits of Trust Deeds

Trust Deeds offer several advantages, making them a popular tool for estate planning and asset management:

Asset Protection

Trusts can safeguard assets from creditors, legal disputes, and other risks. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with significant assets or those in high-risk professions.

Tax Planning

Trusts can be structured to optimise tax efficiency, potentially reducing inheritance tax liabilities and providing income tax benefits for beneficiaries.

Control and Flexibility

Trusts allow the settlor to retain control over how their assets are managed and distributed, providing flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.


Unlike wills, which become public documents upon probate, trust deeds remain private, offering confidentiality regarding the settlor’s estate.

5. Estate Planning

Trusts facilitate smooth succession planning, ensuring that assets are distributed according to the settlor’s wishes and providing for beneficiaries over time.

Trustees have significant legal responsibilities and must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Their duties include:

Fiduciary Duty

Trustees must act with loyalty and care, avoiding conflicts of interest and acting solely for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Prudent Management

Trustees are required to manage the trust assets prudently, making informed and considered decisions to preserve and enhance the value of the trust property.

Compliance with Trust Deed

Trustees must adhere to the terms of the trust deed, ensuring all actions are in accordance with the settlor’s instructions.

Record Keeping and Reporting

Trustees must maintain accurate records of all transactions and provide regular reports to the beneficiaries, ensuring transparency and accountability.

Tax Obligations

Trustees are responsible for managing the trust’s tax affairs, including filing necessary returns and paying any due taxes. This includes understanding the tax implications of trust income and distributions.

Potential Challenges and Considerations

While trust deeds offer numerous benefits, they also come with potential challenges that must be carefully navigated:


Trusts can be complex to set up and manage, requiring professional advice to ensure compliance with legal and tax requirements.


There can be significant costs associated with establishing and administering a trust, including legal fees, trustee fees, and ongoing administrative expenses.

Trustee Selection

Choosing the right trustees is crucial, as their performance will directly impact the trust’s effectiveness. Trustees must have the necessary skills and integrity to manage the trust responsibly.

Changing Circumstances

Trusts must be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances, such as tax law changes, the beneficiaries’ financial situation, or the settlor’s intentions.


Disputes can arise among beneficiaries or between beneficiaries and trustees. Clear communication and well-drafted trust deeds can mitigate the risk of disputes, but they cannot eliminate it entirely.

Trust Deeds in Different Jurisdictions

It’s important to note that trust laws can vary significantly between different jurisdictions. In the UK, trust law is governed by a combination of statutory law and common law principles. However, other jurisdictions may have different legal frameworks and requirements for trusts. When setting up a trust that involves international elements, it is crucial to seek legal advice to ensure compliance with all relevant laws.


Trust deeds are a powerful tool for managing and protecting assets, offering numerous benefits for estate planning, tax efficiency, and asset protection. However, they require careful planning, professional advice, and diligent management to ensure they operate effectively and in accordance with the settlor’s wishes.

At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to providing expert guidance and support to help our clients navigate the complexities of trust deeds, ensuring their assets are safeguarded for future generations.

Whether you are considering setting up a trust for personal reasons, estate planning, or charitable purposes, understanding the intricacies of trust deeds is essential. Our experienced team is here to assist you every step of the way, from drafting the trust deed to ongoing trust administration, ensuring your peace of mind and the effective management of your assets.

Trust Deed FAQ'S

A trust deed is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions under which a trust is established. It specifies the trustees’ roles and responsibilities, the beneficiaries’ rights, and how the trust assets should be managed and distributed.

A trust deed typically includes:

  • The names of the settlor, trustees, and beneficiaries.
  • A description of the trust property.
  • The powers and duties of the trustees.
  • The terms and conditions for managing and distributing the trust assets.
  • Provisions for the appointment and removal of trustees.
  • Any specific instructions or restrictions on the use of the trust property.

Any individual or legal entity (such as a corporation) with the legal capacity to own property can create a trust deed. The creator of the trust is known as the settlor.

Trustees have several duties, including:

  • Managing the trust assets prudently and in accordance with the trust deed.
  • Acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
  • Keeping accurate records and accounts.
  • Ensuring that the trust complies with relevant legal and tax obligations.
  • Acting impartially among beneficiaries and avoiding conflicts of interest.

The ability to amend or revoke a Trust Deed depends on the terms specified within the deed itself. Some trusts are irrevocable, while others allow for amendments or revocation by the settlor or trustees under certain conditions. Legal advice should be sought to understand the specific provisions.

A trust deed creates a trust during the settlor’s lifetime and can be used to manage and distribute assets both during the settlor’s life and after their death. A will, on the other hand, only takes effect upon the death of the testator and outlines how their assets should be distributed after death.

A trust deed must be signed by the settlor and the trustees. It should be dated; in some cases, it may need to be witnessed. While not legally required, having the deed witnessed can help prevent disputes about its validity.

The tax implications depend on the type of trust and the nature of the assets. Trusts can be subject to income tax, capital gains tax (CGT), and inheritance tax (IHT).

Professional tax advice is recommended to ensure compliance and optimise tax efficiency.

Beneficiaries can challenge a trust deed if they believe it was created under duress, fraud, or undue influence or if they believe the trustees are not fulfilling their duties properly. Challenges are typically resolved through legal proceedings.

A trust deed can be an important tool in estate planning. It allows for the management and protection of assets, provides for minor or vulnerable beneficiaries, and potentially offers tax advantages. It can also help ensure that assets are distributed according to the settlor’s wishes.


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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