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Understanding the Concept of Trusts in Estate Planning

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Estate planning is a crucial process for managing and distributing your assets according to your wishes after you pass away. Among the essential tools in estate planning are trusts, which permit a third party, known as a trustee, to hold and manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

The role of trusts in estate planning is pivotal as they can appear complex; however, a clear understanding of their functionality is fundamental for efficient planning. Whether you are initiating your estate plan or seeking to enhance your current strategy, this blog aims to clarify the role and benefits of trusts.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a fiduciary relationship in which one party, known as the trustor or settlor, gives another party, the trustee, the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party, the beneficiary.

Trusts are established to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets, to ensure those assets are distributed according to the wishes of the trustor, and to save time, reduce paperwork, and, in some cases, avoid or reduce inheritance or estate taxes.

In simple terms, think of a trust like a safety deposit box in which you place your valuable assets under someone else’s care—for the benefit of individuals or entities of your choice.

Types of Trusts

Trusts come in various types, each designed for specific purposes. Some of the most common trusts include:

  • Revocable Trusts: Also known as a living trust, this can be altered or terminated during the trustor’s lifetime. Revocable trusts become irrevocable upon the trustor’s death.
  • Irrevocable Trusts: This type cannot be modified or terminated without the permission of the beneficiary. Once established, the trustor, having transferred the assets, effectively removes all ownership rights over the assets.
  • Testamentary Trusts: These are created as part of a will and only come into effect after the trustor’s death.

Charitable Trusts: Aimed at benefiting a particular charity or the public generally, this can also be set up as part of an estate plan.

Why Create Trusts in Estate Planning?

Asset Protection

Trusts can protect your estate from creditors or lawsuits and help manage your assets if you become incapacitated.

Avoiding Probate

Assets held in a revocable trust can avoid probate upon the trustor’s death, permitting a more efficient and private transfer of wealth.

Tax Benefits

Certain types of trusts can create tax advantages both for the trustor during their lifetime, and for beneficiaries after the trustor’s death.

Control over Wealth Distribution

A trust allows you to specify terms for how and when your assets will be distributed to your beneficiaries (e.g., staggered distributions to beneficiaries at certain ages).


Unlike wills, trusts are not public record. By avoiding probate, your estate distribution remains a private matter.

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How to Set Up a Trust

Creating a trust generally includes the following steps:

  1. Define Your Goals: Clearly understand what you want your trust to achieve.
  2. Choose the Type of Trust: Based on your goals, decide which type of trust fits best.
  3. Select the Trustee: Choose someone you trust or a professional trustee to manage your trust.
  4. Draft the Trust Documents: Create the trust agreement detailing the terms of the trust.
  5. Fund the Trust: Place your assets into the trust. This may involve changing titles of assets to the trust’s name.


It is highly recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney who can provide guidance tailored to your unique situation.


Trusts are a versatile tool for estate planning, offering various benefits such as protection, privacy, and potentially, tax advantages.

They allow for a level of control and certainty over future asset management and distribution that other estate planning methods may not provide.

Remember, estate planning is deeply personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about making wise choices now to protect your interests and those of your loved ones in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • The creation of a trust enables asset protection, estate privacy, and potentially, reduces taxes.
  • There are many trust types, and each serves a different estate planning purpose.
  • Professional advice is crucial when considering the establishment of a trust to ensure it aligns with your overall estate planning goals.


Planning your estate is a proactive step in securing your financial legacy and providing for your loved ones. Trusts are just one of the many tools in the estate planning toolkit, but understanding their role and benefits can make all the difference in crafting a plan that reflects your wishes and needs.

If you’re an estate planning client looking to set up a trust or have more questions about integrating trusts into your estate plans, consider reaching out to a qualified attorney or estate planner who can guide you through the process.