Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Is too much ain’t enough** value to justify a testamentary trust?

With thanks to the Television Education Network, today’s post considers the above mentioned topic in a ‘vidcast’.

As usual, an edited transcript of the presentation is below -

Question: Do you usually set a minimum amount in the pool of assets that would suggest that a testamentary discretionary trust is worthwhile?

Answer: My thinking on this has evolved a bit over the last couple of years.

Historically, I used to say about a million dollars’ worth of assets is usually the threshold where the tax benefits of having a testamentary trust start to offset the ongoing compliance costs.

Now I'm coming down a bit and think the threshold is more like $500,000, because while the tax calculations are important, we've seen so many instances over the last few years where the tax is actually a secondary consideration where there is a child that’s going through a divorce, is getting sued for something that happened in their business, or there is a child who’s got a gambling problem.

When we have clients who know that their children have (or is likely to have) one of these problems, then there’s almost no minimum.

If the alternative to a testamentary trust is losing 50% of the inheritance to a spouse or 100% of the inheritance to a creditor, even if it’s a $100,000 pool of assets, that may well still justify setting up a testamentary trust for a period of time, in the context that these trusts can usually be wound up at any time that the trustee determines.

While we would typically structure the testamentary trust in a way that allows it to last for 80 years, if there’s a specific risk we’re trying to deal with today because the child is going through a matrimonial breakdown or one of the other problems mentioned above, regardless of the value of the assets that are involved, we might still have it go into the testamentary trust where it is protected and preserved for that child. We would then look to wind up that testamentary trust and extract the assets once that issue is resolved.

** For the trainspotters, ‘Too much ain’t enough (love)’ is a song by Jimmy Barnes from 1987.