Modern portfolio theory is a theory of finance that attempts to maximize portfolio expected return for a given amount of portfolio risk, or equivalently minimize risk for a given level of expected return, by carefully choosing the proportions of various assets.

Conflicts between current beneficiaries of a trust that want to maximize current income distributions and remainder beneficiaries of a trust that want to maximize their remainder interest are at the core of almost all disputes involving a trust’s administration. In the past the best trustees could do to manage this inevitable conflict was to invest trust assets in income producing securities (e.g., bonds) while also trying to ensure an acceptable level of capital appreciation for the remainder beneficiaries. This type of investing inevitably leads to lower overall growth of the trust’s portfolio. Savvy use of Florida’s Principal and Income Act can deliver a win-win solution to this age old conundrum.Here’s how:

  • First, increase the anticipated remainder interest of the trust by investing the trust’s portfolio in accordance with the Modern Portfolio Theory. This investment approach is in stark contrast to traditional trust investment approaches that artificially skewed portfolios in favor of high income producing assets (e.g., bonds).
  • Second, increase current distributions to the income beneficiaries by relying on the authority granted under F.S. § 738.104 to make adjustments between principal and income or the authority granted under F.S. § 738.1041 to convert the trust into a “unitrust.”

This solution works because investing in accordance with the Modern Portfolio Theory increases the size of the trust “pie,” thereby creating win-win options for all concerned. Using a case-study approach the authors of The Appropriate Withdrawal Rate: Comparing a Total Return Trust to a Principal and Income Trust, 31 ACTEC J. 118 (2005), do a great job of explaining in plain English how a trustee can both increase current distributions and deliver a higher expected return to the remaindermen using the solution outlined above.