The Personal Trust Market



There is a dichotomy of sorts between the amount of money currently being held in personal trusts in the United States and the number of personal accounts held at financial institutions.

Simply put, more money is being held in fewer of those types of accounts.

This dichotomy is the thrust of Spectrem’s annual Perspective, the 2015 Personal Trust Update, which provides the most detailed look at the personal trust industry in the United States. Using Spectrem insights and data from FDIC surveys of member trust institutions, the 2015 Personal Trust Update includes information on the companies who hold the most personal trust accounts, common and collective funds and fiduciary income.

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For the fourth year in a row, personal trust assets grew in 2014, reaching $978.4 billion, an increase of almost $30 billion from 2013. The total has increased almost $130 billion since 2011, and continues to approach the record amount of $1.149 trillion in 2007, just before the stock market crash and recession.

However, what continues to drop is the number of personal trust accounts. For the sixth consecutive year, the total number of accounts dropped, this time to only 614,172. The decrease was slight, just over 600, but the market has lost 175,000 accounts since 2008.

The drop in total personal trust accounts is a concern for an industry that should have more clients than fewer clients today. The number of wealthy households in the United States has been increasing for six years, and those wealthy Americans need to have a safe place to put their savings.

According to Spectrem’s quarterly wealth segmentation series report Asset Allocation, Portfolios and Primary Providers, 49 percent of Ultra High Net Worth investors with a net worth between $5 million and $25 million have assets in a trust.

Interestingly, only 6 percent of UHNW investors have their trust assets using a financial institution as trustee. Of the others, 28 percent said their primary financial advisor told them to self-trustee, and 27 percent said using a financial institution as trustee was too expensive.

However, the percentages climb with increased wealth. Among investors with a net worth over $25 million, 58 percent have assets in a trust, and 14 percent use a financial institution as trustee rather than use a friend or family member.

For financial providers looking to increase trust business, they should educate potential clients the wealth transfer benefits of trusts over a last will and testament. The process of transferring funds to a beneficiary via trust is relatively straightforward in comparison to the legal delays attached to the process of probate on a will. There are costs implications related to probate, and it is also a public procedure as opposed to the very quickly handled private matter of transferring trust funds.

There are also estate tax implications that could make a trust more favorable for the next generation than other savings products. Any estate planning conversations could include contributions to a trust fund as a way of dealing with the eventual tax bites.