Whether you’re looking to manage your own assets, control how your assets are distributed after your death, or plan for incapacity, trusts can help you meet your estate planning goals. Their power is in their versatility – many types of trusts exist, each designed for a specific purpose. Although trust law is pretty complicated and establishing a trust requires working with an experienced attorney, mastering the basics isn’t hard.
What is a Trust?
A trust is a legal document that holds assets for the benefit of another. Basically, it’s like a container that holds money or property for somebody else. You can put practically any kind of asset into a trust, including cash, stocks, bonds, insurance policies, real estate and art work. The assets you choose to put in a trust completely depend on your goals. For example, if you want the trust to generate income, you may want to put income-producing securities, such as bonds, in your trust. Or, if you want your trust to create a pool of cash that may be available to pay any estate taxes due to your death or to provide for your family, you might want to fund your trust with a life insurance policy.
Roles & Responsibilities
When you make and fund a trust, you’re known as the grantor (or sometimes, the settlor or trustor). The grantor names people, known as the beneficiaries, who will benefit from the trust. Beneficiaries are usually your family and loved ones but can be anyone, even a charity. Beneficiaries may receive income from the trust or may have access to the principal of the trust either during your lifetime or after you die. The trustee is responsible for administering the trust, managing the assets, and distributing income and principal according to the terms of the trust. Depending on the purpose of the trust, you can name yourself, another person, or an institution, such as a bank, to be the trustee. You can even name more than one trustee if you’d like.
Image Credit: Rebecca Minkoff Trust Fund Wallet