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HMRC internal manual

Trusts, Settlements and Estates Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Legal background to trusts & estates: secret or half-secret trust

A will may provide for property to pass to a particular individual. However the testator has previously instructed the designated recipient that the property was to be held on particular trusts. This kind of arrangement is known as a ‘a secret trust’. Send all such cases to HMRC Trusts Edinburgh.

HMRC Trusts Edinburgh will accept the arrangement (as a trust created by the testator) only if it meets certain conditions. Before death the testator must have given the apparent legatee details of the trust. The trustees must have accepted the resultant obligations.

A half-secret trust is similar. The will specifies passes the property to a legatee ‘on trust’, without giving other instructions. The testator must have

  • instructed the trustees, or
  • written instructions for later transmission to the trustees
  • when he made out the will, or before that date.Again, refer all such cases to HMRC Trusts Edinburgh.