Trust 101: What is a Trust and What Are the Different Types?

Trust 101: What is a Trust and What Are the Different Types?

8 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Trusts are legal arrangements where a trustee manages assets for beneficiaries. They provide benefits like avoiding probate, maintaining privacy and control, and enabling incapacity planning.
  • Major types of trusts include living trusts, testamentary trusts, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, and asset protection trusts. Each has a different purposes.
  • Key factors in choosing a trust include your assets, goals, beneficiary situations, and priorities like tax planning or probate avoidance. Get professional advice to pick suitable trusts.
  • Trusts play a big role in many estate plans. They integrate with wills and beneficiary listings to fully achieve your estate planning aims.
  • Properly setting up and managing a trust involves administrative duties. When ending a trust, the trustee distributes assets and files taxes according to the trust terms.

Believe it or not, a vast majority of people, regardless of their wealth, overlook a golden tool when planning for the future: the trust.

Imagine – you’ve dedicated a lifetime to accumulating assets and wealth. But what happens to those trust assets once you’re no longer around?

Setting up a trust can be a strategic move to ensure your assets are managed and distributed according to the terms of the trust. Estate planning isn’t just about safeguarding the present; it’s about shaping your legacy.

A trust is generally considered a fiduciary arrangement, allowing a trustee to manage assets for the benefit of another party. A trust can help in various ways, from ensuring privacy to offering tax benefits.

And here’s a myth buster: trusts aren’t just for the super wealthy or for those with a trust fund. They can be a cornerstone of asset management and financial planning for individuals at all economic levels.

Ready to dive deep?

This guide will cover the basics of how to create a trust and the different types of trusts, including trust creation, trust establishment, and trust administration.

Before we dive in, let’s unpack the top 5 interesting facts about trust:

  • According to IBISWorld, the market size of the Trusts & Estates industry in the US was $221.4 billion in 2023, an increase of 4.21% from 2022. The use of trusts has grown significantly in the past few decades due to their flexibility in estate planning, tax minimization, and asset protection.
  • According to various estate planning surveys, revocable living trusts are among the most popular estate planning tools, often chosen for their flexibility and avoidance of probate.
  • Charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts have gained popularity, especially among high-net-worth individuals, due to the potential tax benefits and the desire to give back to the community.
  • Popular in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, offshore trusts offer privacy and tax benefits, but come with different regulations and potential risks.
  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 brought notable changes for trusts. It reduced the highest tax rate for trusts and estates from 39.6% down to 37%. It also raised the amount exempt from estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes, making it more favorable for wealth planning.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement where a third party, known as a trustee, holds and manages assets on behalf of another party, the beneficiary. The grantor transfers legal control of assets to the trustee, without giving up ownership.

Trusts can help distribute assets outside of probate and continue managing assets in case of incapacity planning. The main parties in a trust arrangement are:

  • Grantor – The person who creates the trust and transfers assets into it.
  • Trustee – The person or institution who manages the assets in the trust based on trust instructions and trust specifications. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
  • Beneficiaries – The people who receive income or assets from the trust.

What is a trust diagram

Some key benefits of using trusts include avoiding probate so assets can transfer privately, maintaining control over asset distribution, and planning for incapacity by having a trustee manage assets. A trust may also have a dedicated trust account where funds are held.

If you’re curious about the ideal net worth to start considering trust, check out this detailed guide.

What is a Fiduciary Arrangement?

In a fiduciary arrangement, one person promises to always do what’s best for another. It’s like trusting a friend with something valuable. They should act honestly and make choices that help the other person.

Types of Trusts

There are several types of trusts, each with different purposes and trust strategies:

Living Trust

A living trust is created while the grantor is alive and remains effective during life and after death. Assets transferred into the trust during life are not subject to probate. Living trusts provide substantial probate avoidance and asset privacy benefits.

They can be changed and revoked by the grantor at any time. Living trusts involve greater setup costs than a will. They are ideal for those with privacy concerns or owning substantial assets.

Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is created within a will and takes effect only after death. It is funded by assets passing through the will after death. Testamentary trusts allow grantors to control asset distribution after death.

They can provide ongoing asset protection and management for beneficiaries after the grantor’s death.

Testamentary trusts cost less to establish than living trusts. They are ideal if your main goal is controlling asset distribution through your will.

Revocable Trust

A revocable trust can be modified or terminated by the grantor during life. This provides greater flexibility if circumstances change. Assets avoid probate but the grantor maintains control during life. Revocable trusts allow probate avoidance while retaining access to assets. They are ideal if you want to avoid probate but need to retain control over assets during your lifetime.

Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or revoked once created. This allows greater asset protection and tax planning benefits. Irrevocable trusts can protect assets from creditors and provide management of inheritances for beneficiaries. They are ideal for those with significant asset protection and tax reduction goals.

Asset Protection Trust

A specialty irrevocable trust designed to protect assets from lawsuits and creditors. It provides robust shielding of assets but limits access and control. This type of trust offers the highest level of asset protection planning. It is ideal for those at higher risk of litigation against their assets.

Type of Trust Description Ideal For
Living Trust Created while the grantor is alive and remains effective during life and after death. Those with privacy concerns or owning substantial assets.
Testamentary Trust Created within a will and takes effect only after death. Those wanting to control asset distribution through their will.
Revocable Trust Can be modified or terminated by the grantor during life. Those wanting to avoid probate but retain control over assets during their lifetime.
Irrevocable Trust Cannot be changed or revoked once created. Those with significant asset protection and tax reduction goals.
Asset Protection Trust A specialty irrevocable trust designed to protect assets from lawsuits and creditors. Those at higher risk of litigation against their assets.

Choosing the Right Trust

Choosing the right trust depends on your personal and financial circumstances. Trusts are complex, so it’s essential to consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your situation.

Weigh your probate avoidance needs and tax planning goals. Consider timing – when you want to fund the trust. Take into account your overall estate planning aims and needs. Meet with specialized legal and financial advisors to review your situation and decide on the ideal trust strategies to meet your goals.

Here are some points to keep in mind.

  • Your asset values, ownership structure, and how you want to distribute them.
  • Whether probate avoidance or tax minimization is a priority.
  • Ages and situation of beneficiaries – more control may be needed for younger ones.
  • Whether you want to fund the trust now or at a later date.
  • Your overall estate planning aims and needs.

Trusts for Estate Planning

Trusts play a prominent role in many estate plans. Living trusts are a common tool for avoiding probate. Testamentary trusts provide control over asset distribution after death through your will. Irrevocable trusts maximize gift and estate tax planning opportunities.

Compared to outright gifts, trusts allow more customized distribution instructions. Using trusts ensures your wishes are followed for asset management and distribution.

A comprehensive estate plan integrates trusts with wills, beneficiary designations, and other strategies to fully achieve your goals.

Trust Administration and Dissolution

If you create a trust, it is important to properly administer and manage the trust during your lifetime according to the trust terms and applicable laws. The trustee carries out administrative duties like managing trust assets, record keeping, accountings, tax filings, and distributions.

Upon the grantor’s death, the trustee works to distribute assets and terminate the trust as outlined in the trust documents. This involves assessing assets, liquidating assets if required, making final distributions to beneficiaries, and filing any necessary tax returns to dissolve the trust.

Wrapping Up

Trusts empower detailed instructions for asset distribution before and after death. They enable probate avoidance, control, privacy, and potential tax minimization benefits when properly drafted and funded using the right trust documents like trust deed and trust instrument.

Living trusts, testamentary trusts in wills, revocable, irrevocable, and asset protection trusts are some of the main types available.

Choosing suitable trusts based on your asset profile, beneficiaries, and estate planning priorities is crucial. Trusts form a core component of estate plans alongside wills and beneficiary designations.

Seeking ongoing guidance from estate planning legal and financial professionals ensures you utilize trusts optimally. Always ensure that the information provided by professionals aligns with your personal needs and circumstances.

Carefully understanding how trusts function and aligning their capabilities with your goals allows you to employ them effectively in transferring your wealth according to your wishes.

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