Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A further reminder – read the deed

As regular readers are aware, there have been numerous posts highlighting the importance of reading trust deeds and recently we had (yet another) reminder.

Many advisers would be aware that, particularly for deeds established in New South Wales (due to the stamp duty rules there), there is often a prohibition on any trustee, and in some instances any former trustee, being a beneficiary of a trust.

The example that came up again recently (it seems to be one that comes up every few weeks) involved an individual trustee of a standard family discretionary trust. That individual trustee was also the sole primary beneficiary and sole appointor.

While there were potential issues from an asset protection perspective that we were reviewing, the more fundamental concern was that under the trust deed the trustee was specifically prohibited from ever receiving any income or capital distributions. A brief review of the balance sheet of the trust showed that substantial distributions had in fact been made to the trustee as primary beneficiary over a number of years.

There are now a myriad of issues that the trustee and his adviser are needing to work through, not least of which being how to address the enquiries of the lawyers for the trustee’s former spouse who are alleging a breach of trust and what steps will need to be taken from a tax perspective in relation to the various years in which invalid distributions have taken place.

Until next week.