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A trust is an arrangement in which a person (the "trustmaker") transfers ownership and control of property to another person with the intention that other person (the "trustee") hold, manage, and administer the property for the benefit of either the trustmaker and/or someone else designated by the trustmaker (the "beneficiary").  Trusts are a powerful and flexible way to achieve a variety of important objectives, and they are therefore used commonly in estate planning.

The most common form of trust is the revocable living trust.  With this form of trust, a trustmaker transfers property into a trust in which he/she/they also typically serve as the initial trustee and are the initial beneficiary, but the trustmaker also reserves the right at any point to transfer the assets back and dissolve the trust (thereby making the trust "revocable").

Creating a revocable living trust has many potential advantages.  Among these is the fact that the trust continues to exist as a legally recognized entity even after the death of the trustmaker.  The trust can therefore contain provisions for distribution of the trustmaker's assets after his/her/their death without requiring that the assets go through the probate process, and the trust can continue to hold and manage the assets, with coordination of management and complete with beneficiary protections, for many years thereafter.  For example, assets can continue to be held in the trust for children long after they reach the age of 18, so that protections against unwise spending decisions, the claims of spouses, lawsuits or other creditors, etc., can also continue.

There are also a variety of irrevocable trusts, which are similar in structure to a revocable trust but have substantive terms which cannot be revoked or modified after they have been established by the trustmaker.  While this is a broad topic, generally speaking the most common reasons for creating an irrevocable trust tend to be to achieve estate tax savings, or as part of a planning process designed to eliminate legal ownership in the name of the trustmaker (e.g., to facilitate eligibility for various means-tested benefits).

To discuss the possible benefits to you of employing trusts as part of your estate planning, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.

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