Trusts in Australia You Need to Know: A Comprehensive Guide

trusts in australia

Trusts are an essential part of financial planning and asset management in Australia. This guide will explore the different types of trusts, and their key components, and provide examples to help you understand how they might apply to your situation.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal entity where one party (the Trustee) holds and manages assets for the benefit of others (the Beneficiaries). Here are some key terms:

  • Trustee: The person or entity responsible for managing the trust’s assets.
  • Beneficiary: The person or persons who benefit from the trust.
  • The settlor: The person who establishes the trust.
  • Trust Deed: The legal document outlining the terms of the trust.

Types of Trusts in Australia

1. Discretionary Trusts

Also known as a family trust, discretionary trusts give the trustee complete discretion in distributing income to beneficiaries. This flexibility makes them popular for asset protection and tax planning.

Example: A family trust where income is distributed among family members to minimize tax.

Land Tax Aspect: These trusts may be subject to land tax depending on the state and the value of the land held.

2. Fixed Trusts

In fixed trusts, beneficiaries receive fixed percentages of the trust’s capital or income. Unit trusts are a common example, where investors hold units representing their share.

Example: A unit trust where investors receive income based on their unit holdings.

Land Tax Aspect: Unit holders may be responsible for land tax based on their share of the land value.

3. Hybrid Trusts

Hybrid trusts combine features of both discretionary and fixed trusts. They offer flexibility and can be tailored to specific needs.

Example: A trust used in complex investment structures, combining fixed and discretionary elements.

Land Tax Aspect: Land tax treatment can be complex, requiring careful consideration of both fixed and discretionary elements.

4. Testamentary Trusts

These trusts are created through a will and take effect upon death. They provide a way to manage assets for beneficiaries, such as minor children.

Example: A trust providing for minor children after a parent’s death.

Land Tax Aspect: May be exempt from land tax if the land is used as the primary residence of the beneficiary.

5. Special Disability Trusts

Established to provide for family members with severe disabilities, these trusts have specific rules and benefits.

Example: A trust providing ongoing care and support for a family member with disabilities.

Land Tax Aspect: May qualify for land tax exemptions or concessions, depending on the state.


Trusts in Australia are versatile tools that offer opportunities for asset protection, investment, and tax optimization. Understanding the different types of trusts, their key components, and how land tax applies is essential for informed decision-making.

Key Takeaways

  • Trust Components: Understanding the roles of the Trustee, Beneficiary, Settlor, and Trust Deed is foundational.
  • Types of Trusts: From Discretionary to Special Disability Trusts, each type serves unique purposes and offers distinct benefits.
  • Land Tax Considerations: Land tax is an integral aspect of trusts holding land, with varying rules and implications depending on the trust type and state.
  • Professional Guidance: Trusts require careful planning and professional guidance to align with individual needs and goals.

Whether personal or business-related, trusts require careful planning and professional guidance. Consulting with a tax adviser or accountant can help you choose the trust structure that aligns with your unique needs and goals.


The information provided in this guide is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Individual circumstances vary, and readers are encouraged to seek professional advice from a qualified adviser to ensure that the information is applicable to their specific situation.

If you are looking for professional accounting services for your business. Contact us today