What is a Bare Trust?

A bare trust is a basic trust in which the beneficiary has the absolute right to the capital and assets within the trust, as well as the income generated from these assets.

Trust assets are held in the name of a trustee, who has the responsibility of managing the trust assets in a prudent manner so as to generate maximum benefit for the beneficiaries or as lawfully directed by beneficiaries or the trust's creator. However, the trustee has no say in how or when the trust's capital or income is distributed.

Key Takeaways

  • Bare trusts are naked trusts in which the beneficiary, as long as he or she is above the age of 18, has absolute right to capital, assets, and income within a trust.
  • Bare trusts offer tax advantages to individuals who set up the trust while beneficiaries are taxed at prevailing rates or may be subject to exceptions if they have low earnings.

Understanding Bare Trusts

Also known as simple trusts or naked trusts, bare trusts are widely used by parents and grandparents to transfer assets to their children or grandchildren. Bare trust rules allow beneficiaries to decide when they want to recover the trust's assets as long as they are at least 18 years of age in the United Kingdom. Beneficiaries can use the the capital and income they inherit from a bare trust any way they please. 

A bare trust is established using a deed of settlement or a declaration of trust. In the simplest form of a bare trust, the assets bequeathed by the individual who set up the bare trust are owned by the trustee and beneficiary. But the trustee, in a bare trust, has no responsibilities or powers. They act per the beneficiary's instructions.

There are key differences between a bare trust and other types of trusts. Income generated from trust assets in the form of interest, dividends and rent is taxed to the beneficiary because he or she is the legal owner of these assets. This stipulation can offer beneficiaries substantial tax relief if they are low-earning individuals as tax policies typically favor individuals over trusts. Beneficiaries would have to report income generated by the trust assets as well as capital gains that exceed the annual exemption in their Self Assessment tax returns. 

This tax will be levied on the trust's creator or settler, however, if the beneficiary is under the age of 18. For example, a grandparent opening a bare trust for an infant grandchild would have to pay taxes on the income generated by trust assets until the infant beneficiary turns 18.

Inheritance Tax Implications of Bare Trusts

Beneficiaries may also be responsible for paying inheritance tax if the trust settler dies within seven years of establishing the trust, because bare trusts are treated by tax authorities as potentially exempt transfers. No inheritance tax will be owed, however, if the settler outlives those seven years. There is no tax implication for the individual who sets up a bare trust, because he or she gives up legal title to the assets when they are transferred to the trust.

Once a beneficiary or beneficiaries for a bare trust are set, the decision can't be reversed.