Singapore’s open economy involving stable economic policies, comprehensive legislation, and booming regional wealth makes it an ideal jurisdiction for establishing and operating various trusts.
This blog acts as a guide for helping you understand how to set up a trust in Singapore.
What Is A Trust?
Trust represents a fiduciary agreement authorising a trustee for holding assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. The said beneficiary has an equitable interest in the trust’s assets. The trustee holds the responsibility to manage and monitor the trust assets for the beneficiary’s benefits.
The trust need not always be cash and can include several valuable assets like:
- Residential Properties
- Commercial Properties
- Insurance Policies
Singapore Trust Law
Initially, the Singapore trust law aims at solving a problem related to land ownership during the Crusades. The law originates from the English common law and trust principles. It has now enhanced its trust framework for adapting to modern requirements and compiling with International regulatory and compliance standards.
The Trust Companies Act, Business Trusts Act, Civil Law Act and the Trustees Act make up the governing trust legislation in Singapore. The Singapore Government modernised The Trustees Act in 2004 for facilitating and promoting wealth management in Singapore.
Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits the Singapore Trust Framework provides:
- Singapore Trusts do not need to undergo formal registration.
- Strict confidentiality and banking secrecy laws
- Settlors are protected and safeguarded from forced heirship claims.
- A Settlor is free to themselves any or all investment powers or asset management functions. It helps them retain an active role in trust’s investment management.
- Settlors have the power to appoint another person ( the protector) to supervise the trustees’ conduct.
- No Inheritance Tax or Estate Duty
- No Capital Gains Tax
- Income Tax mitigation for foreign trusts
Essential Features of a Trust
A trust is made up of few critical components. Let’s take a quick look at the crucial features of trust:
- The Settlor. The settlor refers to the person who creates the trust.
- Even when the settlor is alive (living trusts) or dead (will trust), a trust can be created.
- They initiate a trust by setting aside several assets into the trust that must be handled and distributed by the trustee for the ultimate benefit of the beneficiaries.
In the above section of the blog, Trust has been defined.
The trustee proves to be a significant person or entity who is the legal owner of the trust’s assets. The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets and makes proper distributions to the beneficiary/beneficiaries.
The trustee has several duties, primarily distributing assets to beneficiaries and optimising returns for investments. The trustee is obligated by the fiduciary duty of acting according to the beneficiary’s best interests. Failure of doing so can result in a breach of trust and might be liable for lawsuits.
The settlor names the beneficiary/beneficiaries who can either be individuals or entities. The trust is created for the benefits of these beneficiaries as they are the ones who ultimately receive the assets.
Anyone such as:
- Close friends/relatives
- Charitable Organisations
Are eligible for becoming beneficiaries.
The protector is someone who’s appointed for overseeing the trustee. It’s optional to have a protector. A protector is helpful for trusts lasting beyond generations. The protector has several powers such as appointing or removing beneficiaries, adding/removing beneficiaries, etc.
5. Trust Deed
It refers to the legal binding document spelling out the terms and conditions for administering the trust. Information like the beneficiary names, the type of investments the trustee can make, and more are contained in the trust deed.
6. Letter Of Wishes
It represents a separate document where the settlor mentions additional wishes of trust administration by the trustees. It offers guidance to the trustee and can be used as a reference.
What Type Of Trust Exists?
1. Private Family Trust
This type of trust is created when the settlor aims to protect their wealth to benefit their family members. The trust protects the assets from the creditors (bankruptcy), hostile governments, exchange controls, hostile authorities, etc.
2. Testamentary Trust
A trust made using a will is known as a testamentary trust. This trust only becomes effective after the settlor has passed away and is useful when the settlor has young children, dependent with special needs.
These beneficiaries are unable to manage huge assets. This trust is irrevocable.
3. Revocable Trust
This type of rust can be cancelled, changed or terminated by the settlor. The settlor intends to have control of the asset placed in the trust. The assets placed in this type of trust are liable to estate duty. The assets are not protected from the creditors in case the settlor becomes bankrupt.
4. Collective Investment Trust
This trust is set up solely for investment purposes. Business trusts, unit trusts, real estate trusts and investment trusts make up this trust. This type of trust proves to be risky and costly due to high fees.
5. Charitable Trust
A charitable trust need not comply with the rules of creating the trust. It offers relief and tax exemptions. The settlor does not need to specify beneficiaries under this trust type.
6. Discretionary Trust
With this trust type, the trustee is empowered with complete discretion for deciding on the distribution of the assets. This trust type protects the assets from the creditors in case the settlor becomes bankrupt.
7. Asset Protection Trust
This trust type protects the settlor’s assets from their business losses or investments. The assets placed into the asset protection trust are not considered a part of the settlor’s estate. It, therefore, protects the assets from creditors in case of bankruptcy. The assets are only distributed after the settlor’s death.
8. Irrevocable Trust
After the settlor places their assets in this trust type, they cannot claim them back. The assets no longer form a part of the settlor’s estate and are protected from the creditors only when the irrevocable trust has been made for more than five years before the bankruptcy.
How to Set up a Trust in Singapore
You must first decide on the type of trust you want to create and the intentions behind creating one. You might be confused between choosing trust vs will Singapore. It is why it’s crucial to approach a trust planning firm in Singapore for setting up a trust in Singapore.
Trust planning firms have great expertise in the trust creation field and help you select a trust after carefully analysing your business and family values. They help you secure your assets for the future and also successful wealth transfer across generations.
Trust Planning Singapore
Lighthouse Legacy’s holistic approach towards trust planning and wealth transfer make it one of Singapore’s best trust planning and wealth transfer firms. We believe in building legacies for our clients that involve both wealth inheritance and value inheritance.