Trust taxation and estate planning

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A testamentary trust is created by a will and arises after the death of the settlor. An inter vivos trust is created during the settlor’s lifetime by a trust instrument. Trusts and similar relationships have existed since Roman times. Trustees thus have a fiduciary duty to manage the trust to the benefit of the equitable owners.

They must provide a regular accounting of trust income and expenditures. Trustees may be compensated and be reimbursed their expenses. A trustee can be a natural person, a business entity or a public body. A trust in the United States may be subject to federal and state taxation.

A trust is created by a settlor, who transfers title to some or all of his or her property to a trustee, who then holds title to that property in trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Trusts have existed since Roman times and have become one of the most important innovations in property law. An owner placing property into trust turns over part of his or her bundle of rights to the trustee, separating the property’s legal ownership and control from its equitable ownership and benefits. While the trustee is given legal title to the trust property, in accepting the property title, the trustee owes a number of fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. There are strong restrictions regarding a trustee with conflict of interests.

Courts can reverse a trustee’s actions, order profits returned, and impose other sanctions if they finds a trustee has failed in any of their duties. This was created by later common law jurisdictions. At the time, land ownership in England was based on the feudal system. When a landowner left England to fight in the Crusades, he conveyed ownership of his lands in his absence to manage the estate and pay and receive feudal dues, on the understanding that the ownership would be conveyed back on his return. Therefore, he would find in favour of the returning Crusader.

The trust is widely considered to be the most innovative contribution of the English legal system. Property of any sort may be held in a trust. The uses of trusts are many and varied, for both personal and commercial reasons, and trusts may provide benefits in estate planning, asset protection, and taxes. Massachusetts business trust has been commonly used in the US.