Be Aware of your Responsibilities as a Trustee
As accountants we are often asked to give advice on business structures, including family trusts. Trusts continue to be very popular in New Zealand where it is estimated that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 in existence. The exact number is unknown, because unlike companies, there is no central register of trusts. Many trusts simply exist to own the family home and where they have no taxable income, they do not need to register with the Inland Revenue Department.
While there is no standard definition of a trust the most common way of describing how a trust works is that a trust is a relationship between trustees (in whose name property is held or dealt with) and people called beneficiaries who are intended to enjoy the benefits of that property.
Individuals, business people and farm owners form trusts for various reasons including asset protection, provision for family members, farm succession, ease of management, and the ability to appoint trustees to assist with decision making, to name a few. Trusts may also provide tax advantages but recent changes to tax law have reduced some of these.
In general trusts work very well but it is very important to consider the responsibilities of being a trustee. This article briefly looks at some of these.