In contrast to companies, foundations are discrete legal entities that have no shareholders, partners or owners of any kind. They are generally established to realize the goals of the foundation founder (individual or company).
The very earliest foundation models were implemented during the Roman Empire on edict of the Church, a period in which foundations were formed to address the needs of communities, not individuals or families.
In the modern age, use of foundations is evidenced in West Europe during the 1920s to manage the inheritance of estates of the Lichtenstein wealthy. Thus the royal families of this historically neutral state could protect their riches in times of war. Since then foundations have become popular around the world, and today there are numerous foundations scattered from Austria to Holland, Panama, Seychelles, the Isle of Man and many more.
The desires of the foundation founder are settled in the foundation's statute or regulations submitted with the foundation registration documents. Generally, these terms state the foundation purpose, conditioned on this goals being reasonable and implementable, legal and in accordance with the ethical and legal mandates of public policy. The beneficiaries of the foundation need not be mentioned directly in this document.
Foundations can be established for a predetermined period of time or indefinitely; they are set up for charity, to realize family goals, and in some cases for commercial reasons. Foundation objectives may even be “mixed” – meaning for the benefit of an individual or group, for a single cause or a combination of several.
Foundations constitute an important tool that should be considered when planning future ownership of family or corporate assets, and particularly when there is no option of establishing a trust.
Foundations resemble companies in several respects, but also provide protection of assets and the possibility of continued ownership of assets usually provided by trusts.
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