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I'm trying to work out an arrangement to use some neglected UK property held in trust by a not-very active corporation. I'm puzzled by the nature of trust ownership. In essence, who owns land held in Trust? If the land is bequeathed to a Trust, are the collective Trustees the owner? If the Trust is managed by a corporation, is that organisation the owner? If the trust is a charity, does it have an owner?

(Apologies if this is the wrong place to ask the question. Having looked all over Stack Exchange for discussions of property and trusts, the money board shows up as the most frequent place for those topics.)

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The trust owns the property, the trustees control the property and the beneficiaries receive any income from rent or gains from sale of property.

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I am not a lawyer, and I am assuming trusts in the UK work similar to the way they work in the US...

A trust is a legally recognized entity that can act in business transactions much the same way as a person would (own real property, a business, insurance, investments, etc.). The short answer is the trust is the owner of the property.

The trust is established by a Grantor who "funds" the trust by transferring ownership of items from him or herself (or itself, if another trust or business entity like a corporation) to the trust.

A Trustee is appointed (usually by the Grantor) to manage the trust according to the conditions and terms specified in the trust. A Trustee would be failing in their responsibility (their fiduciary duty) if they do not act in accordance with the purposes of the trust. (Some trusts are written better than others, and there may or may not be room for broad interpretation of the purposes of the trust.)

The trust is established to provide some benefit to the Beneficiary. The beneficiary can be anyone or anything, including another trust.

In the US, a living trust is commonly used as an estate planning tool, where the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary are the same person(s). At some point, due to health or other reasons, a new trustee can be appointed. Since the trust is a separate entity from the grantor and trustee, and it owns the assets, it can survive the death of the grantor, which makes it an attractive way to avoid having to probate the entire estate. A good living trust will have instructions for the Trustee on what to do with the assets upon the death of the Grantor(s).

  • I appreciate the caveat at the start! One cannot be sure there's much similarity. But your response is helpful in that it gives me a reference point to work from. I'm guessing that someone familiar with UK charity law might have a definitive answer. I am still puzzling over whether a Trust is comparable to a corporation, in that the latter is an entity that can own something. – dglp May 31 '15 at 13:54
  • @dglp Fair enough. At least in the US, a trust is very similar to a corporation in terms of ownership capabilities. Hopefully someone with more knowledge of the UK laws can give you a definite answer. Good luck! – Kent A. May 31 '15 at 14:07

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