Articles by Matthew Gilligan


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A common issue that arises is dealing with insurance companies over the names on insurance policies. Technically, insurance should held in the name of the owners of a property.   

In the case of a trust, the legal owner on the title of a property is the trustee/s (while the beneficial owner is the beneficiaries). Clients tend to say “ the owner is the trust”, for example the “Smith Family Trust”. Assuming the trustees are Mary & John Smith and an independent trustee called XYZ Trustee Limited, the better description is “Mary Smith, John Smith and XYZ Trustees Limited as Trustees of the Smith Family Trust”. That’s a bit wordy, so alternatively the shorter version of “Mary Smith, John Smith and XYZ Trustees Limited” will legally suffice. 

A minute referring to the existence of the insurance policy or life policy in such circumstances, prepared and signed by the trustees, is prudent.

Watch for this issue to arise when dealing with life insurance companies particularly, as they will incorrectly say that trusts cannot own life insurance policies (and tell you to put the policies in the individuals' names). Literally they are correct - a trust cannot own a policy as it is not a separate legal entity. 

However, the trustees can jointly own a life insurance policy and we have many thousands of our clients’ life insurance policies held in trustees' names in this fashion. This can be better as it shelters the life policy from creditors’ claims in the event an insolvent estate is attacked by creditors. 

In summary, if insuring trust assets or writing life policies in a trust’s name, write the insurance in the name of the trustees and you should have no issue.  Also to find out more details about how to transfer your life insurance policies to your trust purchase Janet Xuccoa's book Family Trusts 101.

If you would like further help with this please contact us on +64 95227955.