Hong Kong is renowned for its robust financial system and business-friendly environment. One essential financial instrument that individuals and businesses often utilize in this jurisdiction is a trust account. Trust accounts provide a secure and efficient way to manage and protect assets, ensuring they are used according to the wishes of the settlor. In this article, we will explore the concept of trust accounts in Hong Kong, the various types available, and the steps involved in setting one up.

Overview of trust account in Hong Kong

What is trust ?

A trust is a three-party relationship involving a trustor, trustee, and beneficiary. It’s created when the trustor transfers assets to the trustee, who manages them for the beneficiary’s benefit. Trusts secure wealth, protect assets, and facilitate their growth through strategic management.

A trust account, also known as a trustee account, is a legal arrangement where assets are held by a trustee on behalf of a beneficiary. Hong Kong’s legal framework for trust accounts is well-established, making it an attractive destination for those looking to establish such accounts. These accounts serve various purposes, including wealth management, estate planning, and asset protection.

About Hong Kong trust services

In Hong Kong, a trust is not recognized as a legal entity; rather, it represents a private agreement between you and the individual or entity you select to legally oversee your assets. This designated legal representative, known as a trustee, is chosen for a specific purpose. You’ll transfer your property or assets to this trustee, who will hold them until the appropriate time for distribution to your designated heirs.

The legal framework for trusts in Hong Kong follows the principles of English common law, owing to the region’s historical colonization by the UK. Over time, this common law foundation has been complemented by various other statutes, including the Trustee Ordinance 1934 and the Perpetuities and Accumulation Ordinance 1970.

Trust account in Hong Kong
Trust account in Hong Kong

Types of trust accounts in Hong Kong

In the bustling financial hub of Hong Kong, trust accounts play a pivotal role in wealth management, estate planning, and asset protection. With a well-established legal framework and a range of options, Hong Kong offers a plethora of trust account types to cater to various needs. In this article, we will delve into the 4 types of trust accounts available in Hong Kong:

  • Discretionary Trusts

In a discretionary trust, the trustee holds the authority to determine which specific beneficiaries are entitled to receive assets and the extent and timing of their entitlement, in accordance with the trust deed’s provisions. This means that the trustee can decide whether to distribute assets to a member of a beneficiary class and, if so, has the discretion to determine the amount and timing of the distribution.

  • Fixed Trusts

In contrast to discretionary trusts, fixed trusts explicitly identify each beneficiary, specify their entitlement, and outline the circumstances and timing of when this entitlement will be disbursed. Trustees in fixed trusts lack the discretion to alter the distribution of trust assets.

  • Living Trusts

A living trust, also referred to as an inter vivos trust, operates during the settlor’s lifetime. As soon as the settlor places assets into the trust, it becomes active, allowing beneficiaries to benefit from it without waiting for the settlor’s death. Typically, the trust deed specifies that the settlor can be a beneficiary during their lifetime and provides for the settlor’s dependents after their passing. Consequently, a living trust allows the settlor to make provisions for themselves while alive and for their family after their demise.

  • Testamentary Trusts

A testamentary trust, also known as a will trust, is established according to the terms of a will. Ownership of assets to be placed in the trust remains with the settlor until their death, at which point the assets become subject to the trust. The will outlines the trust’s terms, and usually, the executor of the will serves as the trustee. Testamentary trusts enable the settlor to provide for their family after their death.

Types of trust accounts in Hong Kong
Types of trust accounts in Hong Kong

Different types of trust accounts in Hong Kong

There is a difference between types of accounts in Hong Kong. These different types of trust accounts in Hong Kong have various functions, including:

1. Simple Trusts or Bare Trusts

A simple trust, also known as a bare trust, is a fundamental trust arrangement where the beneficiary gains absolute control over the trust’s capital, assets, and any generated income once they reach the age of 18 or older. Typically utilized by parents or grandparents, this trust ensures that a portion of their assets is transferred to their children or grandchildren when they are deemed responsible enough to handle a significant sum or assets. If the beneficiary is under 18, taxes are usually imposed on the settlor. The trustee has limited authority over how the assets or sum is utilized, as the beneficiary retains full rights to the assets specified in the trust.

2. Discretionary Trusts

A discretionary trust is a legal arrangement in which the trustee(s) hold complete discretion regarding which beneficiaries will receive assets or property as outlined in the trust. This means that the trustee has the exclusive authority to decide whether assets will be distributed to any beneficiaries and in what proportion or percentage. The assets are thus ‘held in trust’ for the beneficiaries until the trustee(s) make decisions in accordance with the trust document. Discretionary trusts are frequently employed to maintain flexibility in decision-making and ensure that assets or properties are passed on to suitable individuals who possess the capacity to manage them responsibly.

3. Will Trust

A will trust is any trust created through a legally drafted will. It only becomes active after the settlor’s demise, at which point any assets or property specified in the will are inherited by the chosen beneficiaries.

How to set up a trust account in Hong Kong

Setting up a trust account in Hong Kong can be a strategic financial move, whether you’re an individual looking to protect your assets or a business owner seeking efficient wealth management solutions. Trusts provide a secure and flexible way to manage and distribute assets according to your wishes. In this article, we will walk you through the essential steps to establish a trust account in Hong Kong.

Step 1: Define your objectives

Before diving into the process of setting up a trust account, it’s crucial to define your objectives clearly. Determine why you need a trust account and what assets you plan to place within it. Whether it’s for estate planning, asset protection, or other specific purposes, a clear understanding of your goals is essential.

Step 2: Choose a trustee

Selecting the right trustee is a critical decision. The trustee will be responsible for managing the trust account and ensuring that your instructions are carried out faithfully. You can choose an individual, a professional trust company, or a financial institution as your trustee. It’s important to choose a trustee you can trust implicitly.

Step 3: Draft a trust deed

The terms and conditions of the trust are outlined in a trust deed, a legal instrument. It specifies the beneficiaries, the trustee’s powers and responsibilities, and the instructions for asset distribution. This document is essential in defining how the trust account will operate, so it’s advisable to seek legal assistance in drafting the trust deed to ensure it aligns with your objectives.

Step 4: Register the trust

In Hong Kong, it’s necessary to register the trust with the Inland Revenue Department. This registration process involves providing details about the trust, such as its purpose, beneficiaries, and the assets involved. Registering the trust is crucial for tax compliance and transparency.

Step 5: Fund the trust account

Once the trust is registered, transfer the assets or property into the trust account according to the instructions outlined in the trust deed. Ensure that all necessary documentation is properly prepared and maintained to facilitate the smooth operation of the trust.

Step 6: Comply with regulatory requirements

Be aware of and comply with all regulatory and reporting requirements in Hong Kong. This includes understanding and fulfilling any tax obligations associated with the trust account. Staying compliant with Hong Kong’s legal framework is essential to the long-term success of your trust.

How to set up a trust account in Hong Kong
How to set up a trust account in Hong Kong


Setting up a trust account in Hong Kong can provide you with a powerful tool for managing and protecting your assets. By following the steps outlined in this guide and working with experienced professionals, you can navigate the process smoothly and ensure that your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes. Whether for estate planning, asset protection, or other financial objectives, a well-structured trust account in Hong Kong can offer peace of mind and financial security.

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