As an entity with separate legal personality, the foundation looks like a company but operates more like a trust – holding assets in its own name on behalf of a beneficiary or purpose (or both).
Foundations can be incorporated into a variety of structures but are often chosen by private clients from civil law jurisdictions for whom the concept of a trust may be less familiar and to whose home jurisdictions the foundation as a structuring vehicle may be more recognisable. They offer a means of divorcing ownership of assets from the “founder” with stewardship of the assets being entrusted to a council of members (which could, for example, mirror the board of a family business).
As an “orphan” vehicle (ie no owner/shareholder), the foundation can be a useful Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in corporate arrangements or to hold the shares in a Private Trust Company (PTC ). Foundations are also increasingly popular as an alternative to a PTC – the “private trust foundation” is an ownerless vehicle incorporated for the specific purpose of acting as trustee of one or more family trusts.
The flexibility offered by the foundation ensures that they are often the vehicle of choice when it comes to charitable and philanthropic endeavours.