How to Set up a Common Law Trust

How to Set Up a Common Law Trust

A common law trust is a legal entity that allows individuals to protect and manage their assets for the benefit of themselves and their designated beneficiaries. Setting up a common law trust can provide various benefits, including asset protection, privacy, tax advantages, and estate planning. In this article, we will guide you through the process of setting up a common law trust and answer some frequently asked questions.

1. Determine the Purpose and Goals of the Trust

Before setting up a common law trust, it is essential to define the purpose and goals of the trust. Ask yourself why you want to establish a trust and what you hope to achieve. Common purposes for setting up a trust include asset protection, estate planning, managing family wealth, charitable giving, and privacy.

2. Choose the Type of Trust

Once you have determined the purpose of the trust, you need to choose the type of trust that aligns with your goals. Common types of trusts include revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, asset protection trusts, charitable trusts, and special needs trusts. Each type of trust serves different purposes, so it is crucial to select the one that best suits your needs.

3. Appoint a Trustee

A trustee is the person or entity responsible for managing the trust and its assets. When selecting a trustee, consider someone who is trustworthy, financially responsible, and capable of fulfilling their duties. You can choose yourself, a family member, a friend, or a professional trustee, such as a lawyer or a trust company.

4. Create the Trust Document

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To set up a common law trust, you need to create a trust document that outlines the terms and conditions of the trust. The document should include the trust’s purpose, the beneficiaries, the powers and duties of the trustee, and any specific instructions regarding the management and distribution of assets.

5. Transfer Assets to the Trust

Once the trust document is created, you need to transfer ownership of your assets to the trust. This process involves changing the title or ownership of assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property, to the name of the trust. Consult with professionals, such as an attorney or an accountant, to ensure the proper transfer of assets.

6. Maintain and Administer the Trust

After setting up the common law trust, it is important to maintain and administer the trust properly. This includes keeping accurate records of all trust transactions, managing trust investments, filing tax returns, and distributing assets according to the terms of the trust document. Regularly review the trust to ensure it aligns with your changing circumstances and goals.


Q: Is a common law trust recognized in all countries?
A: The recognition of common law trusts varies between countries. While many countries recognize and respect trusts established under common law principles, some jurisdictions may have different legal systems or limited recognition of foreign trusts. Consult with legal professionals in the relevant jurisdiction for specific advice.

Q: Can I be both the settlor and the trustee of a common law trust?
A: Yes, it is possible to be both the settlor (creator) and the trustee of a common law trust. However, it is important to ensure that the trust is structured in a way that maintains its validity and complies with legal requirements.

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Q: Are common law trusts confidential?
A: Common law trusts offer a certain level of privacy and confidentiality. The details of the trust, including the beneficiaries and their inheritance, are not publicly disclosed. However, in some cases, the trust may need to disclose information to relevant authorities or in legal proceedings.

Q: Can I change the terms of a common law trust?
A: Generally, common law trusts can be amended or revoked as long as the trust document allows for it. However, any changes should be made in accordance with the trust’s provisions and applicable laws. Consult with legal professionals to ensure that any modifications are properly executed.

In conclusion, setting up a common law trust involves determining its purpose, choosing the appropriate type, appointing a trustee, creating a trust document, transferring assets, and administering the trust. While common law trusts offer numerous benefits, it is essential to seek professional advice to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.