Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Brown M&Ms, invasion by aliens and when trust beneficiaries aren’t beneficiaries


In preparing for the upcoming View webinar ‘Trust Horror Stories’ (see details below) we had a timely reminder of the mantra to ‘read the deed’.

The read the deed mantra is analogous to the famous contract rider of rock band Van Halen requiring M&Ms in their dressing room; with all the brown ones removed.

Originally thought to be the very definition of an outlandish group of prima donnas, the truth was all about the detail – if Van Halen ever saw brown M&Ms on arrival at a venue they were on notice that the venue operator did not sweat the detail.

On more than one occasion they used the existence of a brown M&M as cause for cancelling a gig; or perhaps more bluntly, telling the venue to go ‘Jump’**.

Contract lawyers have long been renowned for a similar technique when crafting ‘force majeure’ provisions and randomly including events such as inability to complete a contract due to invasion by aliens or abduction by unicorns to flush out those who are not checking every line.

In the trust deed example we had this week, a trustee company had been distributing income from a trust to itself as a corporate beneficiary (ie to cap the tax rate at 30%).

Aside from the asset protection issues that can arise from using a corporate trustee as a corporate beneficiary, the other main issue to consider was whether the company could in fact be a beneficiary of the trust – in other words did the deed include the trustee as a beneficiary.

As is quite often the case with trusts established in New South Wales (in particular), in this instance, the trustee was in fact expressly excluded as a potential beneficiary of the trust. See the following post for a more detailed analysis of this aspect of many trust deeds –

Read the deed - another reminder re invalid distributions.

The invalid distribution, which unfortunately had been made over a number of years, meant that a range of quite complex issues arose in relation to the trust, with a multitude of tax, trust law and accounting issues needing to be addressed. The solutions available for each issue were, at best, problematic.

As mentioned, our upcoming webinar ‘Trust Horror Stories’ will have many case study examples highlighting key issues to be aware of with managing trusts.


Find out more here - https://viewlegal.com.au/product/webinar-trust-horror-stories/

Watch the promo video below.


** for the trainspotters, one of Van Halen’s most popular songs is ‘Jump’ – see - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8LdRJqjjRM and there is a prize for anyone who can confirm the list of contract riders for hair product.