Book review: Trust Practitioner’s Handbook 4th Edition

 In Book Reviews for Private Client practitioners

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Trust Practitioner’s Handbook 4th Ed by Gill Steel

Published: Law Society Publishing,  2018   |    ISBN 9781784460839

Private Client Section committee member Stuart Adams reviews our very own Gill Steel’s new title on trusts

Book review Tolleys Taxwise IIThe first edition of the Trust Practitioner’s Handbook was published 13 years ago in 2005. Since then, there have been three further editions, and now the fourth edition sits before me. When I think about how many legislative and other changes there have been since the first edition was published, I can’t help feeling sorry for Gill Steel and her contributors, who have been faced with making substantial revisions and additions to the base text between editions. Dare I remind everyone of the Finance Act 2006, the implications of which must have contributed to a sizeable increase in word count between the first and second editions!

The area of law and practice concerning trusts is hugely important to most private client practitioners. There are many good trusts textbooks on the market, yet it is difficult to find one that deals with the multifarious elements of trust creation, administration, taxation and essential practicalities in one place. This is where the Handbook comes in.


The Handbook is broken up into four parts. Part one considers the rationale for creating a trust; settlor motivations; alternatives to trusts; the essential characteristics of each type of trust, and the elements that distinguish one from another; creating a trust; and appointing and removing trustees.

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A key component of the international drive to crack down on tax evasion is increased information sharing between jurisdictions worldwide. As a result, the responsibilities of trustees and as such, those who advise them, have become increasingly onerous. Moving with the times, part two of the Handbook, which covers more particular subjects within the context of administering a trust, has introduced a subsection on reporting which neatly summarises a trustee’s obligations in respect of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the Common Reporting Standard and the UK’s new Trust Register.

Part three (by far the largest section of the book) is devoted to the taxation of trusts. Given that the Handbook is not solely devoted to taxation, you might assume that the subject is given brief mention. Not so – there are 187 pages dedicated to taxation, encompassing the taxation of UK-resident trusts and explaining in detail the income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax treatment of the various types of trust. The Handbook covers the tax consequences of creating and ending a trust, as well as the tax issues to consider during the lifetime of each type of trust and on distributions to beneficiaries. The level of detail is impressive.

Part four is entitled ‘Practical trusts’ and considers, inter alia, how a trust may be wound up.

The Handbook is focused solely on UK-resident trusts, with only very fleeting references to so-called ‘offshore trusts’ and their peculiarities, such as the trust protector.

Structure and layout

The Handbook is practical from the outset. Within each part of the book, the information is further broken down into sub-headings.  Real-world examples and experiences are seamlessly merged with black letter law. Throughout the text, you will find ‘practice points’, where Steel summarises the key points from previous passages and, where appropriate, includes useful guides and checklists for the practitioner to follow. For example, the section addressing settlor motivation is followed by a comprehensive checklist of factors to run through with your client(s) immediately before formulating the best approach, which may not necessarily favour a trust structure.

The Handbook is a composite of all the essential concepts one must understand in order to advise upon and administer trusts, from creation through to termination. For those who are new to this area, there is a vast amount of easily digestible learning and practice points that will help you to get to grips with trusts and put what you have learnt into practice. For those of us who have a few, perhaps many, years’ experience with trusts, there is still plenty of useful information here to draw upon. When going over familiar concepts, it does no harm to have one’s thinking challenged or, occasionally, confirmed – often to great relief!

I cannot stress enough just how practical the Handbook is. Whilst Steel can clearly explain the intricacies of trust law, she dedicates much time to confronting the realities with real-life examples and tips borne out of many years’ hands-on experience. She writes passionately and informatively, keeping the reader engaged throughout.

It’s no accident that it is called a Handbook; it is a convenient and concise ready-reference packed full of practical information. It’s not a one-stop-shop, and it has never intended to be, but it will be the first the port of call for many.

I’ve had a copy of the Handbook on my shelf since I started practising. My copy of the third edition is dog-eared from use and the fourth edition will, without doubt, suffer the same fate.

NB: This review first appeared in the August 2018 edition of PS, the magazine of the Law Society’s Private Client Section ( and is reproduced by kind permission

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