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What Is a Trust?

A Trust is a written document, properly executed so that it is a legally recognized entity whose purpose is to hold and distribute your assets upon death. Trusts can distribute your assets to you during your life and then to others as you prescribe in the document upon your death. There are many purposes for a trust. The most common is to Avoid Probate and Protect Assets. Trusts allow for as much flexibility and specificity as you would need and want. In most trusts, you retain control and set up who takes control of you. It can make a quick transfer of assets upon your passing or scheduled distributions for certain periods. Trusts can keep family land in the family. It can provide benefits to multiple generations and prevent unwanted people from controlling and influencing you and your estate. Trusts can also protect against divorce, creditors, and blended family pitfalls. Most importantly, a Trust leaves the last memory of your care, love, and gift to those you love.

What Are the Types of Trusts?

There are many types of trusts. They often can be divided into two categories: Revocable and Irrevocable. Revocable means you can change all of it at any time, so long as you have the capacity. Irrevocable means you can't change all of it at any time. Both avoid probate and provide protections. However, they each work differently for different circumstances and purposes.

What Are the Benefits of A Trust?

The two major benefits of a trust are 1) Avoid Probate and 2) Protect Assets. Probate is far too often expensive, confusing, unfamiliar, and creates unneeded delays for most people. Trusts, when properly funded, allow your estate beneficiaries to skip all that and focus on what really matters. Trusts also provide protection for you while alive and protection for your beneficiaries after you are gone. How and the extent of these benefits vary from person to person. We are all unique and should consider all benefits, both seen and unforeseen.

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Do I Need a Trust if I Have a Will?

It depends on your goals. If you want to avoid probate and protect assets, then yes. A Will tells your family and the legal system to go through probate. A Will is only effective after death, so it does not protect your assets now or later for your beneficiaries.

What Do I Need to Know Before Naming a Trustee?

Similar to choosing an executor, you must TRUST the trustee. A trustee is the person who has legal authority over all the trust assets. Most often you are the trustee of your trust while alive and able. If you become incapacitated, the trustee is the person who uses the assets for your benefit, if that's how your trust is written, and after you pass away, the trustee is the person using trust assets to pay debts, expenses, and make inheritance distributions. Trustees have a lot of authority and power. They are held accountable out of court by beneficiaries or a trust protector. An easier consideration for a trustee, as opposed to an executor, is geographical location. With today's technology, a trustee can virtually serve from anywhere and is not required to show up in-person at a local courthouse. Therefore, if your most trusted person lives across the country or in a foreign country, it will be much easier and less expensive for him/her to serve as trustee than as executor.

Do Trustees Need Attorneys?

No, not usually. A good estate plan comes with instructions for the trustees, both while you are alive and after you pass. If you and your trustee follow these instructions attorneys are typically not needed. However, attorneys can be an important resource to ensure everything goes smoothly and expenses are minimized.

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