For many, if not all people their financial goals are closely tied to family. Whether the families are current or future families they remain important to people and thus the motivation for most people to get their financial houses in order and start creating a better future. One of the best vehicles in use today and permissible by the law in Zimbabwe to pass on wealth from one generation to another are trusts. There is, of course, more to trusts than just passing on wealth from generation to generation as they serve other roles such as separating and protecting assets as restricting access or setting up conditions for access.
We’ve all seen it in American movies and TV shows about rich white American families. Richard is the son of Billionaire Daniel. Daniel created a trust fund with millions of dollars in it that Richard can access and control when he is 21. This is one expression or example of what a trust can do. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. In English, a trust is a holding or investment vehicle for property that is created by a benefactor who appoints trustees to manage it according to set instructions. These instructions can be as loose or as rigid as the benefactor wishes for them to be. It’s worth noting that trusts can be set up for any identifiable group of beneficiaries so they are also used in cases where people want to provide for special groups of people. To tie it all up a trust is a legal vehicle used to hold, administer and distribute property on behalf of someone else.
Registering a trust in Zimbabwe
For your trust to be recognised in Zimbabwe it must be registered by a notary public and registered with the deeds office. For access to a notary public, you can go through any law firm registered with the law society of Zimbabwe. The trust must have a name, identifiable objectives, identifiable trustees and identifiable beneficiaries to be registered. Once established the trust can be a living trust which exists in perpetuity (forever) or a trust with a defined end. This as well as the other objectives are up to you save that the objective must be legal. The trustees act as the managers of the trust and can be appointed or changed according to the rules of the trust.
The advantages associated with setting up a trust are plenty and we can look at them briefly here;
Separate legal entity
A trust has a separate legal identity from its trustees and beneficiaries and as such can acquire, hold or dispose of property in its own right. The same applies to the taxation of the trust which is done in its own right rather than in the individual capacities of beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries of a trust are not liable for the debts and obligations of the trust. The trust is standalone and does business in its own right.
By now you should understand that a trust can offer protection to assets that direct ownership does not. True the separate legal entity status of the trust protects the beneficiaries from the activities of the trust but it also protects the assets in the trust from the activities of the beneficiaries.
As discussed before trusts can exist in perpetuity if that is the desire of the benefactor or the trustees at any point. Trusts are therefore popularly used to transfer the benefit of assets from one generation to another. Please note the assets themselves are not transferred, they are held by the trust.
Trusts are taxed at the company rate of tax which for high incomes is a lower percentage and fixed as compared to individual income tax. An election can be made as to whether income is taxed in the hands of the trust or the beneficiaries. In addition to this trusts also do not pay estate duty because the property ownership doesn’t pass only the benefits do.
One would be forgiven for thinking that trusts are all roses and sunshine but sadly they are not. They have two main disadvantages we should look at.
There are legal fees associated with engaging a lawyer to set up a trust. Also, expect high costs in registration of the trust with the notary public and the deeds office.
As you’ve surmised by now setting up a trust is not easy at all and the process may be testing especially to those unprepared.
Setting up and moving property to a trust can be complicated and require disclosures that people may not always be comfortable with making.
What can you transfer to a trust?
Well, you can transfer just about any property to a trust. Money, private company shares, public company shares, partnerships in businesses, immovable property and moveable property amongst many other things.