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5 Benefits of Living Trusts


A living trust is a legal document that is used in estate planning to manage and distribute your assets after death. Here are five common reasons why you could benefit from a living trust.

If you need help planning your estate, a financial advisor can walk you through different steps to protect your assets for your beneficiaries.

How Do Living Trusts Work?

A living trust will allow you to manage and transfer your assets to your beneficiaries after your death. In order to do this, you must establish this trust during your lifetime. As a legal document, it will set the rules and provisions to govern your assets. And, because these can be complicated, you may want to work with an estate planning professional to ensure that your trust is set up correctly. 

Once you have completed the setup, you will then decide which assets you want to include in the trust and transfer the title for those to the trust. Your assets will be managed by a trustee, who is a person or an entity that you will appoint. You can serve as your own trustee, but you’ll want to appoint a successor trustee who will take over when you pass away.

Additionally, you will also have to designate your beneficiaries, and the trustee will have a fiduciary obligation to manage the trust in favor of their interests.

5 Benefits of Setting Up a Living Trust

An inventory of estate assets

A living trust can be a powerful asset protection and tax planning tool. Here are five reasons why you may want to consider establishing one:

1. Avoid probate. A living trust will allow you to transfer assets legally to your beneficiaries without having to undergo a costly and lengthy probate process in which a court will recognize a will and appoint an executor or representative to administer the estate. 

2. Protect your privacy. Probate is a public process, which means that anyone can access estate files through the court. And because living trusts are not public records, assets held by this legal arrangement will be kept private. This will help shield your beneficiaries from public scrutiny and avoid disputes with family members. 

3. Get more flexibility and control. As the creator of the trust, referred to as the grantor, you will be able to maintain control of your assets, even after completing the setup. This means that you control investments and reacquire them, replace the trustee and revoke or amend the trust, among other powers. You will also have greater flexibility when transferring the ownership of property, either to be managed by a third party or get distributed to beneficiaries at any time. 

4. Plan for incapacity. In the event that you become seriously ill and are unable to manage your assets, a designated trustee could take over the trust and ensure that the rules and provisions that you have set up are maintained without interruption. This could also shield you from getting a court-appointed guardian. 

5. Minimize your estate taxes. A living trust will not directly help you avoid income taxes. As a grantor, the IRS will treat you as the owner of the trust and must therefore report income that is earned from assets in the trust. Similarly, a trust will not avoid estate taxes either. But, if you name a charitable organization as a beneficiary of your living trust, whatever is designated for that charitable organization will be distributed to the charity free from estate taxes.

Getting a Living Trust vs. a Will

Both a living trust and a will are legal documents designed to help protect your assets. But, while a will provides specific instructions to distribute your property after death, a living trust can allow you to transfer ownership in your lifetime. Depending on the needs of your estate, a will may be sufficient. Just keep in mind that many estates can still enter probate court to verify a will, making your property a public record.

However, living trusts fall short of wills in one important area: naming guardians for children. If you have minor children, you’ll want to draft a will and appoint the person or people you want to care for your children in the event of your of death. You cannot name guardians for children through a living trust.

Bottom Line

Man checks a draft of a living trust

Estate planning is a complex process that requires careful consideration and expert guidance. A trust can help protect your privacy by avoiding probate court and ensure the transfer of assets to beneficiaries, while allowing you to maintain control over your property. When setting up a trust, however, you may want to keep the cost in mind and work with a professional to make sure that the rules and provisions meet legal requirements.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • A financial advisor can walk you through the complicated steps of setting up a trust. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Estate planning involves more than just protecting your assets. Advance directives are legal documents that enable individuals to retain control over their health care decision, if they become incapacitated. Here’s a comprehensive guide on advance directives for healthcare.

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