How A Trust Fund Works in Nigeria: The Basics

Trust funds are powerful financial instruments that can provide a multitude of benefits for individuals and institutions. Whether you are an individual looking to secure your family’s future, a charitable organization seeking sustainable funding, or a business entity exploring investment options, trust funds can be a viable solution.

This article will delve into the intricacies of trust funds and provide a basic understanding of how a trust fund works in Nigeria.

What Constitutes a Trust Fund

A trust fund, in its simplest form, is a three-party fiduciary relationship. It involves the grantor (the person setting up the trust fund), the trustee (the person or institution managing the trust fund), and the beneficiary (the person or organization receiving the benefits from the trust fund).

The essence of a trust fund lies in the separation of legal and beneficial ownership of assets. This signifies that while the trustee holds the legal title to the trust assets, it is the beneficiary who enjoys the benefits arising from these assets.

Why Opt for a Trust Fund?

Before delving into the procedural aspects of starting a trust fund in Nigeria, it’s crucial to understand why one might consider creating a trust fund. Trust funds can provide a number of advantages, which can be classified into various categories.

1. Financial Management and Future Security

Trust funds allow for effective management of assets, particularly for those who may lack the time, expertise, or inclination to manage their own finances. They can also provide financial security for the grantor, especially during old age or periods of incapacitation.

2. Succession Planning and Asset Protection

Trust funds are excellent tools for succession planning, as they allow for the seamless transfer of wealth to future generations. They can also protect assets from creditors or legal claims, thereby ensuring that your wealth is preserved for your intended beneficiaries.

3. Philanthropy and Community Development

Trust funds are not just for individuals and families. They can also be used by businesses and non-profit organizations to support philanthropic efforts and contribute to community development. For instance, the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF), a self-sustaining revolving fund, was established with the objective of assisting the Bank’s low-income regional member countries.

How Does a Trust Work in Nigeria?

The operational framework of a trust fund in Nigeria is largely similar to that of other jurisdictions. However, there are certain specific aspects that you need to be aware of.

In Nigeria, trust funds can broadly be classified into two types – private trust funds and public trust funds. Private trust funds are created for the benefit of specific individuals, typically family members (known as beneficiaries), while public trust funds are created for the benefit of the community at large.

While Nigeria does not have a specific statute governing trust funds, the principles of equity and common law serve as the legal bedrock for the creation and operation of trust funds in the country. The establishment of a trust fund involving real property must comply with the statutory regulations pertaining to the transfer of land title, such as the Land Use Act.

Also Read: How to Set Up a Trust Fund for your Children

What Type of Trust is Best?

The selection of the right type of trust depends largely on your unique needs and circumstances. Here’s a closer look at the various types of trusts and their use cases.

1. Revocable Trusts

Also known as living trusts, revocable trusts can be altered, modified, or terminated by the grantor during their lifetime. They provide a high level of flexibility and control, making them ideal for those who may want to change their trust provisions over time.

2. Irrevocable Trusts

Once established, irrevocable trusts cannot be changed or terminated without the consent of the trustee and the beneficiary. They provide a higher level of asset protection and can have tax benefits, making them a suitable choice for long-term estate planning.

3. Testamentary Trusts

These trusts are created through a will and come into effect only after the death of the grantor. They can be an effective tool for managing the distribution of assets to minor children or other dependents.

Decoding the Process: How Do I Start a Trust Fund in Nigeria?

Starting a trust fund in Nigeria involves a series of steps that must be meticulously followed to ensure the validity of the trust. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to establish a trust fund in Nigeria.

1. Selection of a Trustee

The first step in establishing a trust fund is the selection of a trustee. The trustee can be an individual, a group of individuals, a company, or a firm. The chosen trustee should be trustworthy, reliable, and capable of effectively managing the trust assets.

2. Identification of Trust Type

The second step involves identifying the type of trust you wish to establish, based on your specific needs and objectives. This could be a private trust fund, a public trust fund, a revocable trust, an irrevocable trust, or a testamentary trust.

3. Transfer of Assets to the Trustee

The final step in setting up a trust fund involves the transfer of assets to the trustee. This is a critical step that legally establishes the trust fund. Depending on whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable, this transfer may or may not be reversible.

Navigating the Creation of a Private Express Trust Fund

Creating a private express trust fund in Nigeria involves some specific considerations. Let’s explore them in detail.

Validity Criteria for a Private Trust Fund

For a private trust fund to be valid, three elements must be present – certainty of intention, certainty of subject matter, and certainty of objects. These represent the grantor’s intention to create a trust, the clear identification of the trust assets, and the clear identification of the beneficiaries, respectively.

Formalities for Trust Creation

The formalities for trust creation depend on the nature of the trust assets. For trusts involving personal property (e.g., money, shares, vehicles), no specific formalities are required. However, for trusts involving real property (e.g., land), compliance with the statutory regulations for land transfer is mandatory.

Also Read: Secure Your Finances with These Powerful Emergency Fund Guides

Understanding the Role and Duties of a Trustee

The role of a trustee is pivotal in the functioning of a trust fund. The trustee holds the legal title to the trust assets and is responsible for managing these assets in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Criteria for Trustee Appointment

The appointment of a trustee requires careful consideration. An ideal trustee should be an adult of sound mind, capable of holding property, and willing to fulfill the responsibilities of a trustee.

Duties of a Trustee

The duties of a trustee in Nigeria include the collection and safeguarding of trust assets, investment of trust funds, distribution of trust property, and maintaining equality among beneficiaries. The trustee is also required to render accounts and provide information on the trust assets as required by the beneficiaries.


While this guide provides a comprehensive overview of how to start a trust fund in Nigeria, it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice. Legal and financial experts can help you navigate the complexities of trust creation and ensure that your trust fund is set up correctly and effectively.

Setting up a trust fund in Nigeria can be an effective way to manage and distribute your assets, provide for your loved ones, or support a charitable cause. By understanding the basics of trust funds and following the right steps, you can ensure that your trust fund serves its intended purpose and stands the test of time.

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