In its most basic form, a trust is a contractual relationship among three parties, whereby property is transferred by one party (a grantor or settlor) to a second party (the trustee) to hold for the benefit of one or more third parties (the beneficiaries). The trustee is given legal title to the trust property, but is obligated to act for the good of the beneficiaries. The trustee may either be an individual, a company or a public body.

However, in today’s world of trust design, the traditional functions of a trustee, such as holding title to and safeguarding assets, designing a portfolio, investing the assets, making distributions of assets, disseminating accounts of their administration and filing tax returns, are all but gone. Instead, these functions are now routinely broken out among one or more fourth parties, including investment advisers, distribution committees and, sitting on top of everyone else, trust protectors.

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