Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc.'s 300 brokers are marketing a "turnkey" version of a sophisticated trust product to their affluent clients.
DLJ's private client group, Wood, Struthers & Winthrop, and its subsidiary, Winthrop Trust Co., often works on charitable remainder trusts for multimillionaires. Now the New York-based brokerage firm wants to offer the product to the merely affluent who want to avoid paying capital gains taxes on stock sales.
In a charitable remainder trust, the underlying assets are given to a charity. Yet the income generated from those assets is retained by the person establishing the trust and eventually given to his beneficiaries.
According to Winthrop, charitable remainder trusts could be helpful to clients who may have $500,000 tied up in heavily tax-liable securities but also have more worth at their disposal.
"'How do you unlock that wealth?' That's a catch phrase around here," said Guy S. Waltman, chairman of Winthrop Trust, in reference to assets subject to hefty taxes outside a trust.
Mr. Waltman said brokers are cross-selling the trust product because they view money management not as a transaction business but as a long-term one.
"It ties another string to the client with DLJ, so it's good for relationship building," he added.
Banks are also offering turnkey trusts. Both Wells Fargo & Co. and BankAmerica Corp. have plain-vanilla trusts for clients with less than $1 million to invest.
But some trust experts say a product customized for the very rich may not be appropriate for all levels of affluence.
"Why on earth would somebody with less money want a charitable remainder trust?" asked Edward S. Schlesinger, a trust and estate lawyer in New York. "Once you get into these more sophisticated things - yes, they work - but does the client get all the information?"
Investment management consultant Robert M. Tetenbaum, executive vice president of First Manhattan Consulting Group, agreed that trusts should be marketed carefully. "Come back to the complexity of trust law," he said. "That's not always the first thing they talk about."
"I'm not saying it's not a good thing. It is. But it's very difficult to weigh the pros and cons," Mr. Tetenbaum added. "A trust can lock up assets in a vehicle that can cause problems down the road."