Jenny Chia graduated from the National University of Singapore and has more than 15 years of experience specialised in helping families with their wealth and estate planning concerns as a Certified Financial Planner® and Estate Planning Specialist. A holder of the ASEP Certificate awarded by IBF and a passionate estate planning practitioner, she has been invited to conduct talks and webinars for schools, churches, retirees, and organisations to create awareness about the importance of estate planning in Singapore and how it goes hand-in-hand with wealth planning & wealth transfer in Singapore.
We are honoured to have an exclusive interview with her on the subject: Should you appoint a Corporate Trustee?
LLP: Jenny, you are obviously a very successful financial consultant specialising in (wealth and) estate planning. Can you share with us how you came to become one?
JC: After attending a basic Estate Planning course, I was enlightened that no matter how good one’s financial portfolio is, it is never complete without putting in place a proper Estate Plan to ensure a secured future for one’s loved ones even upon demise. Thus, I decided to pursue an advanced course to also become a professional estate planning specialist associate.
LLP: As a consultant, do you normally advise your clients to choose their own family members or a corporate organisation as trustee over their trust?
JC: I always encourage my clients to choose a corporate trust company as trustee to ensure an audited, more independent and unbiased management of their trusts.
LLP: What are the factors you consider in your client’s situation that you feel imperative that they need to consider appointing a corporate trustee?
JC: If the clients prefer not to put any of their loved ones or friends in a stressful mental and emotional position of handling their estate and beneficiaries, then appointing a corporate trustee is definitely useful.
A corporate trustee is also important for clients who want a proper check and balance to be put in place, in order to avoid future temptations of mishandling trust monies and possible conflicts amongst their loved ones.
Corporate trustee appointment also addresses the concerns of clients who also see the importance of having a group of licensed professionals, structure and system put in place to oversee the management of their trust.
LLP: Many clients who came to our planners cited a few concerns against corporate trustees such as high fees and uncertainty should these corporate trustees wind down. How do you view these concerns?
JC: If a small amount of fee can minimise unnecessary future conflicts, confusion and high legal costs, and also ensure a secure and proper flow of provision to the intended beneficiaries, at the intended time, for the intended purpose, then it is definitely money well spent. It is important not to fall into the trap of being “penny wise, pound foolish“.
Secondly, should corporate trustees really wind down, the Trustee Act and Trust Company Act ensure that our trust monies are protected, and we/our protectors can always appoint another licensed corporate trustee to take over.
LLP: Many private banks and multinational trust companies have also set up shop in Singapore in the last decade. What are the criteria you look out for in a corporate trustee?
JC: When looking for corporate trustees, the level of experience, support rendered and the depth and range of estate planning services provided are all important. I would prefer an entity that serves as a one-stop Estate Planning hub that provides holistic value-added estate planning services; convenience and accessibility are important for families in a fast-paced society like Singapore.
LLP: It seems like you have given very strong reasons for corporate trusteeship. Which are the obvious cases that you think a family member trustee would be sufficient?
JC: Perhaps a person with modest assets (for example net worth below $500k) who only wants to donate to a religious/charity organisation in a lump sum.
LLP: This is a rather sensitive topic, but can be helpful for the readers. As a financial consultant specialising in (wealth and) estate planning, do you appoint a corporate trustee for your own estate plan?
JC: Yes, I am a strong believer in having a corporate trustee and in the importance of walking the talk. Thus, both my husband and I have, and will continue to appoint a corporate trustee for our estate plan.
LLP: Thanks for sharing your professional views on this very important topic. Is there any final advice you would like to share with our reader about estate and legacy planning in Singapore?
JC: Never let cost and procrastination be the reasons to stop you from appointing a corporate trustee in your estate and legacy plan; saving the monetary costs and headaches of today will not avoid the more costly and detrimental consequences of one’s failure to plan ahead wisely and decisively.
Jenny Chia is an Associate Director under Kelvin Ng Organisation representing finexis advisory Pte Ltd. This interview is purely for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as financial advice.