Setting Up a Trust in Australia: Types & Advantages

This guide will provide an overview of the types of trusts available, their advantages, and the steps involved in setting up a trust in Australia.


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    setting up a trust in australia

    Setting Up a Trust in Australia

    Australia’s robust legal framework and dynamic financial landscape make it an attractive destination for individuals and businesses to manage and protect their assets. One of the best and most adaptable tools available for this purpose is trust. A trust is a lawful arrangement where one party, the trustee, maintains and oversees assets for the benefit of another party or parties, referred to as the beneficiaries. Whether you’re looking to safeguard your family’s wealth, manage business assets, or optimize tax planning, understanding the intricacies of setting up a trust in Australia is crucial. 

    This guide will provide an overview of the types of trusts available, their advantages, and the steps involved in setting up a trust in Australia. 

    What is a Trust?

    In a legal arrangement known as a trust, one person, the trustee, maintains and administers assets on behalf of another, the beneficiary. In Australia, trusts are commonly used for various financial and legal purposes. They are established through a trust deed, which outlines the rules and conditions governing the trust.

    Types of Trusts in Australia

    Australia’s legal system recognizes a variety of trust structures, each catering to specific needs and objectives:

    Discretionary Trusts (Family Trusts)

    These trusts give the trustee discretion in determining how to distribute income and capital among beneficiaries and are frequently used for tax planning and the protection of family assets. They are chosen because they give trustees the freedom to modify payouts in response to changing conditions.

    Unit Trusts

    In this structure, beneficiaries hold ‘units’ in the trust, akin to shares in a company. The allocation of earnings and capital is proportional to the number of units held. Unit trusts are common for joint ventures or investment schemes where participants want clarity on their entitlements.

    Fixed Trusts

    Beneficiaries in fixed trusts have a predetermined interest, ensuring they receive a specific amount of the trust’s income or capital. This structure offers less flexibility but provides clarity on distributions.

    Hybrid Trusts 

    Hybrid trusts, which combine components of both discretionary and unit trusts, provide a balance of flexibility and structure. They are appropriate for intricate financial arrangements since they may be customized to meet unique demands.

    Choosing the Right Trust Structure in Australia

    It is crucial to choose the right trust framework. Your choice should align with your financial goals, risk tolerance, and long-term ambitions. While a discretionary trust gives flexibility, collaborative investment partnerships may be better suited for a unit trust. 

    Selecting the Trustees

    In a trust, the trustee’s function is crucial. Whether they are persons or corporations, trustees should be dependable, skilled managers, and well aware of their fiduciary obligations.

    Creating the Trust Deed

    The trust’s foundation is its trust deed. It defines the duties of the trustee, their authority, and the rights of the beneficiaries. A carefully designed trust deed is essential to foresee and reduce any legal issues.

    Registering the Trust in Australia

    While trusts in Australia aren’t mandated to register with a specific government agency, there are administrative steps that need to be undertaken to ensure they operate within the legal framework:

    • Tax File Number (TFN): Every trust must obtain a TFN from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This unique number is used in all communications with the ATO and is essential for tax-related matters.
    • Goods and Services Tax (GST): If a trust’s annual turnover exceeds the stipulated threshold, it becomes mandatory for the trust to register for GST. This involves periodic reporting and payment of GST liabilities.
    • Australian Business Number (ABN): While not mandatory for all trusts, those operating a business or intending to hire employees should consider obtaining an ABN. It facilitates various business operations and interactions with government agencies.
    • State-specific Registrations: Depending on the trust’s activities and the state in which it operates, there might be additional registration requirements, such as payroll tax or land tax.

    Advantages of Setting Up a Trust in Australia

    Trusts have become a cornerstone of effective financial planning in Australia, offering a range of benefits tailored to individual and business needs:

    • Asset Protection: One of the primary reasons many opt for trusts is the unparalleled asset protection they offer. Assets are protected from possible creditors, lawsuits, and other unforeseen legal demands by being transferred into a trust. This is especially beneficial for business owners who seek to distinguish between their personal and commercial liabilities.
    • Tax Efficiency: Trusts provide flexibility in distributing income, which can lead to tax advantages. By distributing money to those who are subject to lower tax rates, it’s possible to minimize the overall tax liability. Moreover, certain types of trusts can help in capital gains tax planning and accessing tax concessions.
    • Estate Planning: Trusts serve as a robust tool for ensuring that assets are passed down to heirs or beneficiaries in a structured manner. They can avoid the frequently drawn-out and expensive probate procedure, ensuring a more orderly transfer of assets after death.
    • Confidentiality: Unlike companies, trusts offer a degree of privacy since their details and operations aren’t publicly recorded. For people who want to manage their finances discreetly, this may be useful.
    • Flexibility: Especially in the case of discretionary trusts, there’s a level of flexibility in how assets and income are managed and distributed, allowing for adjustments based on changing circumstances or needs of the beneficiaries.

    Disadvantages of Setting Up a Trust in Australia

    • Complexity: Trusts demand meticulous setup and management.
    • Cost Implications: Both the initial setup and ongoing management can be financially taxing.
    • Irrevocability: Certain trusts, once in motion, are challenging to modify or dissolve.


    In the vast financial landscape of Australia, trusts have emerged as a pivotal tool for asset protection, estate planning, and tax optimization. While the process of setting up a trust might seem daunting, with the right guidance and understanding of the legal framework, it becomes a manageable and strategic endeavor. Whether you’re an individual safeguarding generational wealth or a business entity aiming for structured financial management, trusts offer a versatile solution. 

    You may speak with experts from OnDemand International for any further queries regarding setting up a trust in Australia. With their in-depth knowledge and expertise, they are qualified to give you the professional advice and information you require to make wise decisions and negotiate the challenges of establishing trust in the Australian legal system.


    Absolutely. In Australia, it’s permissible for an individual to don both hats.

    Trusts usually have an 80-year lifespan, adhering to the “rule against perpetuities”. Exceptions do exist.

    While trusts as entities aren’t taxed, income distributed to beneficiaries or retained by trustees might attract tax.

    The trust deed itself dictates its amendability. Some allow modifications, while others are stringent.