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What is a trust?

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2023 | Estate Planning |

One essential tool of estate planning is trusts. This fundamental component of many estate plans offers a structured way to manage and distribute assets. A trust can help ensure that an individual’s wishes regarding their assets are executed precisely as intended.

Estate planning is not just about drafting a will. It’s about creating a comprehensive plan that caters to one’s unique needs and situations. Trusts can play a crucial role in this endeavor because they offer flexibility and control over how assets are managed and disbursed during an individual’s lifetime and after their passing.

Diving into the concept of a trust

A trust is a legal arrangement where one party transfers assets to a trustee. This trustee holds and manages these assets for the benefit of specific individuals or entities, known as beneficiaries. Trusts can be set up for various reasons, including tax benefits, avoiding probate or ensuring that assets are used in specific ways. Trusts broadly fall into two categories: revocable and irrevocable. Understanding the distinction between the two is vital for effective estate planning.

What is a revocable trust?

Revocable trusts are also known as living trusts. These trusts are characterized by their flexibility. The grantor can change, modify or even dissolve the trust if they’re alive and competent. This adaptability allows the grantor to respond to changing life circumstances, financial situations or even shifts in the family dynamic. One of the standout benefits of a revocable trust is its ability to avoid probate, providing a smoother transition of assets to beneficiaries. Additionally, it provides a layer of privacy because the details of a revocable trust may remain private.

What is an irrevocable trust?

Once an irrevocable trust is established, its terms can’t be easily changed, modified, or terminated without the beneficiaries’ consent. This rigidity might seem limiting, but it offers certain benefits. Assets placed in an irrevocable trust are generally not considered part of the grantor’s taxable estate, offering potential tax advantages. Since the grantor relinquishes control over the assets, they’re typically shielded from creditors.

In estate planning, the choice between revocable and irrevocable trusts hinges on individual goals and circumstances. While revocable trusts offer flexibility and control, irrevocable trusts provide more robust asset protection and potential tax benefits. Seeking legal guidance can help individuals better assess which option(s) may fit their unique needs.