Who can you trust with your death benefits?

A testamentary trust is provided for in your Last Will and Testament and established when you die. /123RF
A testamentary trust is provided for in your Last Will and Testament and established when you die. /123RF

Your will sets out how you want your property and investments to be distributed when you die.

But, if you're contributing to a retirement fund and have dependants, the fund trustees may use their legal discretion to decide who should get what portion in line with their financial dependency on you.

The trustees may decide against paying the money to the child's guardian and instead pay it into a beneficiary fund regulated by the Pensions Funds Act.

If you have life cover, you may also want this money managed professionally.

Until now your only option was to set up a testamentary trust - or will trust - or, an inter vivos or living trust.

But now there is another option - an umbrella trust - to ensure money from your estate or policies are managed properly by professional trustees for the benefit of your heirs. You don't need to set up the trust or appoint trustees.

These trusts, like testamentary or inter vivos trusts, are governed by the Trust Property Control Act. Here's how to navigate these structures:

Testamentary trust

Consider this trust if you may leave property to minors or adult dependants with special needs who cannot enter into a contracts. It may also be beneficial for a surviving spouse who isn't good with money or who may remarry and incur debt.

Inter vivos trust

An inter vivos trust is ideal for limiting estate duty and protecting assets for generations to come. Estate duty is a tax payable at 20% on the value of your estate that exceeds R3.5 million or up to R7 million for a couple. Future growth of assets transferred to the trust does not incur this tax in your estate.

This trust is useful for business owners who need to protect their personal assets, such as a house, from being attached should the business fail.

Umbrella trust

Umbrella trusts are a cost-effective alternative to a stand-alone trust to manage assets from deceased estates, life insurance policies, retirement funds, disability claims, Road Accident Fund claims and medical malpractice payments for beneficiaries.

Tax implications of all trusts: The trust will pay income tax at 45% and there is no capital gains tax exclusion unless it is a special trust for minors or people with disabilities.

If income or capital is paid or accrues to the beneficiaries their tax rate applies.

A beneficiary fund

If you only have retirement and employment-related death benefits, you can ask the trustees to use a beneficiary fund as no tax will paid either in the fund or when payments are made from the fund.

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