Understanding the Basics of Non-Statutory Trusts

So you've heard about non-statutory trusts but you're not quite sure what they are or how they work? Well, you're in the right place! In this article, we'll break down the basics of non-statutory trusts and provide you with a clear understanding of what they are, their purpose, and how they differ from other types of trusts. Whether you're a seasoned legal professional or someone with no legal background at all, this article will give you the knowledge you need to confidently navigate the world of non-statutory trusts. So let's get started!

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Understanding the Basics of Non-Statutory Trusts

Non-Statutory Trusts are a type of trust that is not governed by specific legislation or statutes. Instead, these trusts are based on common law principles and are established and administered according to the intentions of the creator, also known as the grantor or settlor. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of non-statutory trusts, covering their features, benefits, how to create and administer them, as well as their different types and common uses.

What are Non-Statutory Trusts?

Non-Statutory Trusts, also referred to as common law trusts, are established and governed by principles of common law rather than specific legislation. Unlike statutory trusts, which have guidelines and regulations outlined by law, non-statutory trusts provide more flexibility in terms of design and administration. The terms of a non-statutory trust are based on the intentions of the grantor and can be customized to suit their specific objectives and needs.

Key Features of Non-Statutory Trusts

One of the key features of non-statutory trusts is their flexibility in designing trust terms. Unlike statutory trusts where the terms may be more rigid due to legal requirements, non-statutory trusts can be tailored to meet the unique needs of the grantor and the beneficiaries. This flexibility allows for greater control and customization of the trust structure.

Another important aspect of non-statutory trusts is the privacy and confidentiality they offer. Since these trusts are not subject to specific legislative requirements, there may be less public disclosure of information related to the trust. This can be beneficial for individuals who prioritize privacy in their financial affairs.

Non-statutory trusts also provide a level of asset protection. By placing assets in a trust, they are held separately from the grantor's personal assets and can be shielded from potential creditors or legal claims. This can be particularly advantageous in situations where the grantor wants to protect their wealth and ensure its preservation for future generations.

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Additionally, non-statutory trusts may offer potential tax advantages. Depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances, certain tax benefits may be available when assets are held in trust. It is important to seek professional advice from tax experts to understand the potential tax implications and advantages of establishing a non-statutory trust.

Comparison to Statutory Trusts

Statutory trusts, on the other hand, are trusts that are specifically governed by legislation or statutes. These trusts have established guidelines and requirements that must be followed. While statutory trusts provide a clear legal framework and may be more widely recognized, non-statutory trusts offer more flexibility and customization in terms of trust design and administration. The choice between a non-statutory trust and a statutory trust will depend on the individual's specific objectives and circumstances.

Benefits of Non-Statutory Trusts

Flexibility in Designing Trust Terms

One of the significant advantages of non-statutory trusts is the flexibility they provide in designing the terms of the trust. The grantor has the freedom to customize the trust structure to align with their specific objectives and the needs of the beneficiaries. This flexibility allows for tailoring the trust to address various concerns, such as asset protection, privacy, and tax planning.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Non-statutory trusts offer greater privacy and confidentiality compared to other types of trusts. Since they are not subject to specific legislative requirements, there may be less public disclosure of information related to the trust. This confidentiality can be crucial for individuals who prefer to keep their financial affairs private and away from public scrutiny.

Asset Protection

Creating a non-statutory trust allows for effective asset protection. By transferring assets to the trust, they are separated from the grantor's personal assets and may be shielded from potential creditors or legal claims. This protection can be particularly relevant to individuals who want to safeguard their wealth and ensure its preservation for future generations.

Possible Tax Advantages

Non-statutory trusts can offer potential tax advantages depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the trust. Through careful tax planning and structuring, individuals may be able to minimize tax liabilities and optimize their overall tax position. It is essential to consult with tax professionals to understand the tax implications and potential benefits of establishing a non-statutory trust.

Creating a Non-Statutory Trust

Choosing a Trustee

When creating a non-statutory trust, selecting the right trustee is a crucial decision. The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets and ensuring that the trust is administered according to the wishes and objectives of the grantor. It is essential to choose a trustee who is trustworthy, reliable, and capable of fulfilling their fiduciary duties.

Determining the Purpose and Objectives

Before establishing a non-statutory trust, it is vital to define the purpose and objectives of the trust. This involves identifying the reasons for creating the trust, such as wealth preservation, estate planning, or business succession planning. The grantor's specific goals and intentions will guide the design and structure of the trust.

Identifying and Transferring Assets

An important step in creating a non-statutory trust is identifying the assets that will be transferred to the trust. These assets can include real estate, investments, cash, and other valuable property. The grantor must properly transfer ownership of these assets to the trust as per legal requirements to ensure the assets are protected and managed as intended.

Drafting the Trust Agreement

The trust agreement is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of the non-statutory trust. This document should clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of the trustee, beneficiaries, and other key players involved in the trust. Working with an experienced attorney is crucial to ensure that the trust agreement accurately reflects the grantor's intentions and complies with all legal requirements.

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Administration of Non-Statutory Trusts

Trustee Responsibilities and Duties

Once a non-statutory trust is created, the trustee assumes the responsibility of managing the trust assets and administering the trust according to the terms set out in the trust agreement. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and must make decisions that align with the grantor's intentions.

Accounting and Reporting Requirements

Non-statutory trusts typically require the trustee to maintain accurate accounting records and provide periodic reporting to the beneficiaries. These records and reports help ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the trust. Following accounting and reporting requirements is crucial to demonstrate compliance with legal and fiduciary obligations.

Managing Trust Assets

The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets and making informed investment decisions. This involves evaluating investment opportunities, diversifying the portfolio, and ensuring that the assets are adequately protected and preserved. The trustee must exercise prudence and diligence in managing the trust assets to maximize returns while minimizing risks.

Distributions and Beneficiary Rights

Non-statutory trusts may provide for the distribution of income or principal to the beneficiaries according to the terms specified in the trust agreement. The trustee is responsible for making these distributions in accordance with the grantor's wishes. The beneficiaries have certain rights, such as the right to receive distributions and the right to be kept informed about the trust's administration.

Types of Non-Statutory Trusts

Revocable Trusts

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, can be modified or revoked by the grantor during their lifetime. This type of trust provides flexibility and control to the grantor, allowing them to make changes to the trust terms as circumstances evolve.

Irrevocable Trusts

irrevocable trusts, as the name suggests, cannot be altered or revoked once established, except under specific circumstances outlined in the trust agreement or by law. This type of trust provides asset protection and may offer tax advantages, but it involves relinquishing control over the trust assets.

Discretionary Trusts

A discretionary trust grants the trustee discretionary authority to determine when and how distributions are made to the beneficiaries. This type of trust gives the trustee flexibility in managing the trust assets and making distributions based on the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Spendthrift Trusts

Spendthrift trusts are designed to protect the trust assets from creditors or potential financial mismanagement by the beneficiaries. The trustee has sole discretion over distributing funds to the beneficiaries, ensuring their long-term financial well-being.

Charitable Trusts

charitable trusts are established for charitable purposes. The assets held in these trusts are to be used for charitable activities, such as supporting educational, religious, or humanitarian causes. Charitable trusts may provide tax benefits to the grantor while allowing them to contribute to the greater good.

Common Uses of Non-Statutory Trusts

Estate Planning

Non-statutory trusts are commonly used in estate planning to ensure that assets are distributed according to the grantor's wishes, minimize estate taxes, and provide for the financial needs of beneficiaries.

Wealth Preservation

By creating a non-statutory trust, individuals can protect and preserve their wealth for future generations, shielding it from potential risks, such as lawsuits, creditors, or mismanagement.

Business Succession Planning

Non-statutory trusts can be instrumental in planning for the transfer of business ownership from one generation to the next, ensuring a smooth transition and addressing tax implications.

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Special Needs Trusts

Special needs trusts are established to provide for individuals with disabilities or special needs while maintaining their eligibility for government benefits. These trusts are designed to supplement rather than replace government assistance.

Legal Considerations of Non-Statutory Trusts

Trust Law and Jurisdiction

Non-statutory trusts are subject to trust law and regulations specific to the jurisdiction in which they are established. It is essential to consult with legal professionals who have expertise in trust laws to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and to address any legal considerations.

Fiduciary Duties and Liability

Trustees have fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and to administer the trust prudently. Failure to fulfill these duties can result in legal liability for the trustee. It is crucial for trustees to understand and adhere to their fiduciary obligations.

Compliance with Applicable Regulations

Non-statutory trusts must comply with various legal and regulatory requirements, such as reporting obligations, tax laws, and anti-money laundering regulations. Staying informed and ensuring compliance with these regulations is imperative to avoid legal issues or penalties.

Potential Challenges and Litigation

Non-statutory trusts may be subject to challenges, disputes, or litigation. It is essential to establish clear terms in the trust agreement and communicate effectively with the beneficiaries to minimize the potential for conflicts or legal issues.

Non-Statutory Trusts vs. Statutory Trusts

Differences in Legal Framework

One of the main distinctions between non-statutory trusts and statutory trusts is the legal framework that governs them. Non-statutory trusts rely on common law principles, while statutory trusts have clear guidelines and requirements outlined in legislation or statutes.

Flexibility in Trust Administration

Non-statutory trusts offer more flexibility in trust administration compared to statutory trusts. The terms and conditions of non-statutory trusts can be tailored to the specific needs and objectives of the grantor, providing greater control and customization.

Tax Consequences

Non-statutory trusts may offer specific tax advantages depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the trust. Comparatively, statutory trusts may have more standardized tax treatment as outlined by the governing legislation.

Key Players in Non-Statutory Trusts


The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets, making distributions, and ensuring that the trust is administered according to the grantor's intentions.


The grantor, also known as the settlor, is the individual who creates the trust and transfers assets to it. The grantor's wishes and objectives guide the design and structure of the trust.


Beneficiaries are the individuals or entities that are entitled to receive benefits from the trust. The rights and interests of the beneficiaries are defined in the trust agreement.


In some cases, a non-statutory trust may have a protector, whose role is to oversee the trustee's actions and protect the beneficiaries' interests. The protector acts as a check and balance, ensuring that the trust is administered in accordance with the grantor's intentions.

Risks and Limitations of Non-Statutory Trusts

Lack of Uniformity in Trust Laws

Non-statutory trusts can be subject to varying trust laws and regulations in different jurisdictions. Lack of uniformity can create complexities, requiring individuals to seek legal advice specific to the jurisdiction where their trust is established.

Potential for Abuse or Misuse

As with any legal structure, there is a potential for non-statutory trusts to be abused or misused. It is important to approach the establishment and administration of these trusts with transparency, adherence to legal requirements, and ethical considerations.

Costs and Administrative Burden

Establishing and administering a non-statutory trust can involve significant costs and administrative responsibilities. It is essential to consider these factors and weigh them against the potential benefits before deciding to create a non-statutory trust.

In conclusion, non-statutory trusts offer flexibility, privacy, and asset protection. They can be customized to meet individual objectives and provide potential tax advantages. Creating a non-statutory trust involves careful planning, selecting the right trustee, and transferring assets. The administration of these trusts requires fiduciary duties, accounting, and reporting obligations. Different types of non-statutory trusts serve different purposes. They are commonly used in estate planning, wealth preservation, business succession planning, and special needs trusts. However, legal considerations, potential challenges, and the choice between non-statutory and statutory trusts must be carefully evaluated. By understanding the basics and weighing the risks and benefits, individuals can make informed decisions regarding the establishment and administration of non-statutory trusts.

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