top of page

How does a discretionary Will Trust work?

In the world of estate planning, Will-Based Discretionary Trusts are powerful tools that can help individuals and families secure their financial legacies, protect generational wealth, and ensure the efficient distribution of assets according to their wishes. In the United Kingdom, these trusts play a crucial role in estate planning, and this blog aims to shed light on their purpose, benefits, duration, trustee powers, and how they safeguard generational wealth but I'm often asked how does a discretionary Will Trust work?

How does a discretionary Will Trust work? The purpose of Will-Based Discretionary Trusts

a man being trusted to hold a property

A Will-Based Discretionary Trust is a legal arrangement created within a person's will, often used to hold and manage assets for the benefit of chosen beneficiaries. The primary purposes of such trusts include:

Asset Protection: They provide a structured way to protect assets from various risks, such as creditors, divorces, and spendthrift beneficiaries.

Control: Testators (those creating the will) can maintain control over how their assets are managed and distributed, even after their passing.

Tax Planning: Will-Based Discretionary Trusts can help mitigate inheritance tax and other tax liabilities, making them an essential tool for estate planning.

Vulnerable Beneficiaries: They are particularly useful when there are vulnerable beneficiaries who might not be capable of managing an inheritance responsibly.

Benefits of Will-Based Discretionary Trusts

Will-Based Discretionary Trusts offer several advantages, including:

Flexible Distributions: Trustees have the discretion to distribute assets based on the needs and circumstances of beneficiaries, making it adaptable to changing family dynamics.

Tax Efficiency: These trusts can be structured to minimise inheritance tax, capital gains tax, and other tax liabilities.

Creditor Protection: Assets held within the trust are shielded from the creditors of beneficiaries, enhancing asset protection.

Generational Wealth Preservation: By providing a structured framework for asset management, these trusts can safeguard wealth across generations.

Duration of Will-Based Discretionary Trusts

In the UK, Will-Based Discretionary Trusts can last for up to 125 years. This extended duration ensures that the trust can continue to protect and distribute assets across generations. However, many trusts allow for distribution to occur earlier if certain conditions or circumstances warrant it.

Powers of Trustees

a trustees meeting held after the death of a man

Trustees are entrusted with the responsibility of managing the assets within the Will-Based Discretionary Trust. Their powers typically include:

Investment Powers: Trustees can invest trust assets to generate income and grow the trust fund.

Discretionary Distributions: They have the authority to decide when and how to distribute trust assets to beneficiaries based on the terms set out in the trust deed.

Administrative Duties: Trustees are responsible for the administrative tasks related to the trust, such as record-keeping and reporting.

Tax Planning: Trustees can implement tax-efficient strategies to minimise tax liabilities within the trust.

Protecting Generational Wealth

a young couple protecting their child

One of the most significant advantages of Will-Based Discretionary Trusts is their role in protecting generational wealth. By holding and managing assets over an extended period, these trusts prevent the dissipation of family wealth and ensure it benefits multiple generations. This is achieved by controlling distributions, protecting assets from various risks, and leveraging tax-efficient strategies.

Enhancing Will-Based Discretionary Trusts with Letters of Wishes

In addition to Will-Based Discretionary Trusts, individuals can employ a valuable complement in their estate planning: a Letter of Wishes. This supplementary document works in tandem with trusts, offering further guidance and insight for trustees and beneficiaries.

What is a Letter of Wishes?

A Letter of Wishes is a non-binding document that provides guidance and instructions to trustees and beneficiaries regarding the administration and distribution of assets within a trust. While it is not legally binding, it is considered a valuable resource for those involved in trust management.

How Letters of Wishes Work in Conjunction with Trusts

Guidance for Trustees: The primary function of a Letter of Wishes is to offer guidance to trustees on how the trust assets should be managed and distributed. It can include specific wishes, preferences, and even instructions regarding beneficiaries' needs and circumstances.

Maintaining Flexibility: One of the key benefits of a Letter of Wishes is that it allows for flexibility. Trustees can consider the guidance provided in the letter but are not legally bound by it. This flexibility is particularly useful when circumstances change over time.

Family History and Context: Letters of Wishes can capture the family's history, values, and the intentions of the testator (the person who created the trust). This context can be invaluable in making decisions that align with the testator's wishes.

Preserving Privacy: While the trust deed is a legal document, a Letter of Wishes remains private. This confidentiality can be crucial in sensitive family matters, as it allows the testator to convey personal and emotional wishes to trustees and beneficiaries.

Long-Term Vision: Letters of Wishes can help maintain the long-term vision of generational wealth preservation. They ensure that the values and objectives of the testator are carried forward as intended, even after their passing.

Creating a Letter of Wishes

When creating a Letter of Wishes, individuals should keep several considerations in mind:

Clarity: The letter should be clear and specific in its guidance but also allow for some flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Addressing Family Dynamics: It's essential to consider family dynamics, relationships, and any specific concerns or requirements of beneficiaries.

Regular Updates: The letter should be revisited periodically to ensure it remains relevant and reflective of the testator's current wishes.

Professional Advice: Consulting with legal and financial professionals is advisable when creating a Letter of Wishes to ensure it aligns with the legal framework and serves its intended purpose.

In conclusion, a Letter of Wishes is a valuable addition to Will-Based Discretionary Trusts within UK-based law. They offer a means to provide guidance, context, and flexibility to trustees and beneficiaries, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the trust. When used in conjunction with trusts, Letters of Wishes help protect and preserve generational wealth while respecting the intentions and values of the testator. It is a powerful tool that can provide peace of mind in estate planning and ensure that one's legacy is managed as desired. However, it's essential to consult with legal and financial professionals to create a trust that aligns with your specific goals and circumstances.

If you’re looking to write your will or lasting power of attorney book an appointment with Joshua Young. I am A Will Writer covering Farnborough, Basingstoke, Camberley, Aldershot and the surrounding areas.


bottom of page