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May 21, 2024

How to Start a Trust in India

May 21, 2024
how to start a trust in India

Are you looking for a meaningful way to make a difference in society while also safeguarding your assets?

Starting a trust in India might just be the answer you’ve been searching for! Did you know that as of 2024, there were over 1.5 million registered NGOs in India, working tirelessly to address various social issues?

Among these organizations, trusts play a significant role, in offering a structured approach to charitable giving and asset management.

But starting a trust can seem daunting, right? Well, fear not! In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process step by step on how to start a trust in India, making it easy to understand and implement.

From drafting the trust deed to navigating the legal requirements for registration, we’ve got you covered.

Understanding a Trust in India

A Trust in India is a legal arrangement where an individual, known as the settlor, transfers property or assets to another party, the trustee, to manage for the benefit of a third party, called the beneficiary.

This setup establishes a fiduciary relationship, meaning the trustee is legally obligated to manage and protect the trust assets in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

Trusts are governed by the Indian Trusts Act, of 1882, and they serve multiple purposes, including providing for family members, safeguarding assets, and ensuring that wealth is transferred according to the settlor’s wishes.

In India, trusts are commonly used for asset protection, family wealth transfer, and tax planning.

By creating a trust, settlors can effectively secure their assets and provide financial support to their beneficiaries, usually family members, in a structured manner.

Trusts help in managing and preserving wealth, facilitating a smooth transfer of assets, and ensuring that the settlor’s intentions are legally upheld.

Additionally, trusts can offer significant tax benefits, making them an attractive option for estate planning and asset management.

Types of Trust in India

Types pf trust in India

Private Trusts

These are established with the primary aim of benefiting specific individuals, such as family members or other persons nominated by the settlor.

They focus on designated beneficiaries, ensuring that the trust’s assets are managed and utilized for their welfare.

Revocable Trusts

A subtype of private trusts, revocable trusts allow the settlor the flexibility to alter or revoke the trust during their lifetime.

These trusts are adaptable but offer limited protection for assets from legal claims during the settlor’s lifetime.

Irrevocable Trusts

Once created, an irrevocable trust generally cannot be revoked by the settlor.

This type of trust provides enhanced asset protection and is advantageous for ring-fencing and inheritance tax planning.

Determinate and Discretionary Trusts

Within private trusts, determinate trusts clearly define the beneficiaries and their respective shares at the time of the trust’s creation, whereas discretionary trusts leave the distribution of assets and income among the beneficiaries to the trustee’s discretion, guided by the settlor’s instructions.

Charitable Trusts

Established with the intention of benefiting a larger section of society or for philanthropic purposes, charitable trusts are governed by specific provisions under applicable charitable laws and the Income Tax Act.

They offer tax exemptions and other benefits, and can be set up for purposes such as education, healthcare, and poverty alleviation.

The Indian Trusts Act

Indian Trusts Act

Foundational Legal Framework

The Indian Trusts Act of 1882 establishes the foundational legal framework for the creation, management, and dissolution of trusts in India, ensuring they operate within the bounds of Indian law.

Scope of the Act

The Act specifically addresses private trusts, providing a comprehensive legal structure for their establishment and governance.

It defines the roles and responsibilities of trustees, ensuring they adhere to the terms set forth in the trust deed.

Trustee Obligations

The Act outlines the obligations of trustees, including the proper administration of trust funds, adherence to the trust deed, and acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, thereby safeguarding the trust’s integrity.

Compliance and Legal Obligations

It mandates the legal framework for compliance, including the maintenance of accounts, handling of trust property, and upholding fiduciary responsibilities. This ensures trusts are managed transparently and lawfully.

Essential for Trust Management

Understanding the Indian Trusts Act is crucial for anyone involved in the creation or management of a trust in India.

It provides the legal guidelines that govern trust operations, ensuring their proper administration and alignment with the settlor’s objectives.

How to start a trust in India: Step by Step Guide

1. Drafting the Trust Deed

How to start a trust in India - drafting the trust deed

The trust deed is the foundational legal document that establishes the trust. It clearly outlines the purpose and objectives of the trust, which can range from charitable activities to managing family wealth.

The deed must include detailed information about the settlor (the person creating the trust), the trustees (the individuals who will manage the trust), and the beneficiaries (those who will benefit from the trust).

Additionally, it should specify the trust property, which comprises the assets that will be placed into the trust. The management rules and regulations governing the trust, including how the assets will be administered and distributed, should also be clearly stated.

It is advisable to engage a legal professional to draft the trust deed to ensure it complies with the Indian Trusts Act and other relevant laws, ensuring all legal nuances and requirements are met.

2. Identifying the Trust Property

The settlor must clearly identify and allocate the assets or property that will form the trust’s corpus. Trust property can include both movable and immovable assets. Movable assets might consist of:

  • Bank accounts
  • Mutual fund investments
  • Shares
  • Other financial instruments

Immovable assets can include:

  • Land
  • Buildings
  • Real estate

Proper documentation proving ownership and value of these assets must be gathered to substantiate their inclusion in the trust. Clearly defining the trust property is crucial as it delineates the resources that will be managed and utilized for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

3. Selecting the Trustees

How to start a trust in India - selecting the trustees

The settlor appoints trustees who will be responsible for managing the trust property and ensuring that the trust’s objectives are fulfilled. Trustees play a pivotal role, holding a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Key considerations in selecting trustees include:

  • Trustworthiness and integrity
  • Competence in managing trust affairs
  • Understanding of fiduciary responsibilities
  • Willingness to adhere to the trust deed and legal obligations

The trust deed should specify the process for appointing and removing trustees, as well as their powers, duties, and responsibilities. Trustees must be fully informed of their roles and agree to adhere to the terms of the trust deed and the legal obligations under the Indian Trusts Act.

4. Specifying the Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries are the individuals or groups for whom the trust is created. The trust deed must clearly identify these beneficiaries, detailing their entitlements and the manner in which they will benefit from the trust assets.

In some cases, the beneficiaries might be specific family members, while in others, they could be a broader segment of society if the trust is charitable in nature.

Clearly defining the beneficiaries ensures that the trust serves its intended purpose and that the trustees have clear guidelines to follow in the administration and distribution of the trust assets.

5. Trust Registration

Registering the trust is a crucial step to provide it with legal recognition and validity. The process involves several key steps:

  • Legal Requirement for Registration: For a trust to be officially recognized, especially if it involves immovable property, it must be registered under the provisions of the Indian Registration Act.
  • Documentation: The trust deed should be executed on non-judicial stamp paper of appropriate value as per state laws.
  • Submission: Submit the trust deed along with necessary documents, including identification proofs of the trustees and the settlor, to the sub-registrar’s office in the area where the trust’s registered office is located.
  • Fees: Pay the required registration fees.
  • Certification: Once the documents are verified, the sub-registrar will issue a registration certificate, legally recognizing the trust.

This legal status enables the trust to hold property, opens up avenues for financial transactions, and facilitates interactions with financial institutions and tax authorities.

Benefits of starting a trust in India

Financial Assistance

Through charitable operations, registered trusts provide much-needed financial assistance to the needy and the masses, contributing to social welfare and community development.

Tax Relief

Trusts offer significant benefits in terms of capital and income tax relief. They provide better protection for the settlor, beneficiaries, and trust assets against rigorous tax laws, allowing for tax-efficient management and distribution of assets.

Legal Protection

The Indian Trusts Act of 1882 provides trusts with extensive legal protection. It safeguards the trust’s legal standing and forbids any third party from making frivolous claims that could jeopardize the trust’s assets or operations, ensuring stability and security.

Asset Protection

Setting up a trust is particularly advantageous when relocating to another country, as it allows for the protection of family assets and greater organizational flexibility.

By establishing a trust, individuals can mitigate tax liabilities in the new country and safeguard their assets for future generations.

Estate Planning

Trusts offer effective estate planning solutions, allowing individuals to manage and distribute their assets according to their wishes.

They provide a structured mechanism for wealth transfer, ensuring that beneficiaries receive their entitlements in a timely and efficient manner, while minimizing legal complexities and potential disputes.


Ending Note

To sum up, creating a trust in India is a significant approach to manage your assets well and give back to the community. The procedures described in this article will help you create a trust that successfully fulfils its intended function.

Every stage is essential to ensure that the trust functions lawfully and achieves its goals, from creating the trust deed to registering the trust with the authorities.

Furthermore, establishing a trust has several advantages for people and families, including helping those in need financially, tax relief, legal protection, asset protection, and efficient estate planning.


1. How long does it take to register a trust in India?

The registration process for a trust in India typically takes around 1 to 3 months, depending on factors such as the workload of the relevant authorities and the completeness of the documents submitted.

It’s important to plan accordingly and allow sufficient time for the registration process to be completed.

2. Can a trust in India operate internationally?

Yes, a trust registered in India can engage in international activities, such as receiving donations from overseas donors or investing in assets located outside India.

However, it’s important to comply with applicable laws and regulations governing cross-border transactions and to ensure proper documentation and reporting of international activities.

3.What are the key responsibilities of trustees in a trust?

Trustees in a trust have several key responsibilities, including managing the trust assets prudently, adhering to the terms of the trust deed, acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, maintaining proper accounts and records, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

It’s important for trustees to understand their duties and obligations and to fulfill them diligently to ensure the effective operation of the trust.

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