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Buying an investment property in a trust

Buying property in a trust can offer tax benefits and excellent asset protection for investors. Here's what you need to know.

Trusts are an increasingly popular ownership structure for Australian property investors. Buying a property via a trust offers tax benefits, asset protection and makes estate planning easier.

Before setting up a property investment trust, make sure you get legal advice and know exactly what you're getting into.

How does buying property in a trust work?

What is a trust?

A trust allows a person or company to own assets on behalf of someone else, or on behalf of a group of people. The trustee is the person that controls the asset on behalf of the beneficiaries. The trustee maintains the assets in the trust and manages them for the beneficiaries.

There are three main trust structures property investors use:

  • Unit trusts. Under a unit trust structure, the assets the trust owns are split up into portions known as units. The trust beneficiaries then own these units. Each beneficiary receives any income or benefits from the trust in proportion to the units they own.
  • Family discretionary trusts. A family discretionary trust is probably the most common type of trust for property investors. It's set up to hold a family's assets. The trustee can use their discretion to distribute the trust's income and assets to the beneficiaries, allowing the family members to take advantage of tax benefits.
  • Hybrid trusts. A combination of a unit trust and a family discretionary trust. It allows beneficiaries to hold units in the trust, while at the same time giving the trustee the power to distribute income as they wish.

Why buy property in a trust?

The biggest advantages to buying an investment property through a trust structure are:

  • Asset protection. An investment property owned by a trust is held in the trustee’s name, not your own. This means in many cases the trust’s assets are protected from creditors if one of the beneficiaries goes bankrupt or is the subject of legal action.
  • Tax benefits. Family trusts allow the trustee to split the income between beneficiaries in the most tax-effective way each year. If the investment property is held by the trust for more than a year, you can also take advantage of a 50% capital gains tax (CGT) discount.
  • Estate planning. Each trust features a trust deed – a document which outlines the rules the trustee must follow and what will happen to each beneficiary’s share of the trust’s assets upon their death. This simplifies the estate planning process and can help avoid any messy legal battles within families.

If you’re interested in setting up a trust to purchase an investment property, you may also want to research the trust home loan options available.

Things to be wary of when buying property using a trust

There are a couple of key issues to be aware of when you’re considering buying property using a trust.

  • If you individually own an investment property and then decide to transfer it into a trust, the trust will need to pay stamp duty and you will be liable for CGT.
  • If the trust makes a capital loss or a rental loss on an investment property, there is no option to offset that loss against other investment income. This means you won’t be able to enjoy any of the benefits of negative gearing.

Get expert help

Choosing the right ownership structure for your investment property is a complicated and confusing task. To find out whether a property trust is right for you, ask your accountant or financial planner for advice specifically tailored to your situation.

Property trusts explained

The phrase property trust can have different meanings in different contexts. This article has explained how buying an investment property in a trust works. Don't confuse this with a property trust.

A property trust, or property fund, is a professionally managed investment fund. Investors can buy shared in fund, and the fund is managed by a professional investment management firm.

The money you invest remains in the property trust until the property is sold and the profits are distributed among the investors. Investors also receive distributions of income at fixed intervals, similar to the way companies pay dividends to shareholders.

Written by

Richard Whitten

Richard Whitten is a money editor at Finder, and has been covering home loans, property and personal finance for 6+ years. He has written for Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine and Homely; and has appeared on various radio shows nationwide. He holds a Certificate IV in mortgage broking and finance (RG 206), a Tier 1 Generic Knowledge certification and a Tier 2 General Advice Deposit Products (RG 146) certification. See full profile

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12 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    FaramarzFebruary 22, 2019


    I bought a property under family trust, and now I want to transfer it under my name since I am the director. I’m just wondering whether it’s possible, and how much does it cost to transfer the ownership?


      JeniFebruary 26, 2019Finder

      Hi Faramarz,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      It is possible to transfer the property to your name from a family trust, but it depends on the nature of the trust itself and how it can be vested or dissipated. This is specified in the trust deed. I suggest that you seek professional help from a lawyer as you need legal advice on this matter.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


    Default Gravatar
    AymericOctober 6, 2018

    Hi, can some of the beneficiaries of a family trust be Non Australian Resident and live overseas ? Thanks

      DeeOctober 8, 2018Finder

      Hi Aymeric,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, non-Australian residents or those residing overseas can be beneficiaries of a family trust. However, it would be best if you seek legal advice on this matter to understand its legal and tax implications.

      I hope this helps.


    Default Gravatar
    BellMay 17, 2018

    I would like to know how to get out of a family trust on a property. Also, we are divorced. I do not live on the property.
    Please help

      JeniMay 17, 2018Finder

      Hi Bell,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Regarding your enquiry, I suggest that you speak to your lawyer or contact a Family Dispute Resolution provider to help you sort out your property arrangements and understand your options.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!


    Default Gravatar
    JamesFebruary 7, 2018

    Hi, my partner and I already have a discretionary trust. We are looking to purchase a property within the trust with my parents. Can we add my parents as trustees to an already established trust then seek an appropriate loan to suit?

      JoshuaFebruary 22, 2018Finder

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your question.

      With a discretionary trust, the “Appointor”, which is named in the Trust Deed has the power to remove and appoint trustees. One of the occasions an appointor can add/remove a trustee(s) is when the trustee dies, becomes bankrupt, or is incapacitated. I would suggest that you seek legal advice on this if your parents can be added as trustees or speak to your “Appointor”.

      As for seeking out a loan, there are trust home loans available in the market that you can actually apply for. You’d be best to speak to a mortgage broker who can consider your circumstance and offer you lending options. You can also check the guide about trust home loans for further info.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out again.

      Have a wonderful day!


    Default Gravatar
    RaidoOctober 15, 2017

    I have set up a Family Trust for rental property holding. I have applied for TFN for tax return. Do I also need to apply for ABN?

      Default Gravatar
      ArnoldOctober 16, 2017

      Hi Raido,

      Thanks for your inquiry

      Yes, you do. An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique 11 digit number that identifies your business to the government and community. An ABN doesn’t replace your tax file number, but it is used for various tax and other business purposes.

      Hope this information helps


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