Many people harbor misconceptions about trusts. One of them is the idea that they are only useful for very wealthy people that have complex estates.
This is a half-truth, because there are irrevocable trusts that high net worth individuals use to address estate tax exposure. However, irrevocable trusts are also utilized by people that are not extremely wealthy to satisfy relatively common objectives.
Another myth is the notion that you lose control of assets that you can convey into any type of trust. You do surrender incidents of ownership when you establish an irrevocable trust, but there are some good reasons why people want to relinquish direct, ongoing control.
This being stated, the revocable living trust is in a different category, and it is the most commonly used estate planning document aside from the simple will.
In this post, we will look at these trusts with an emphasis on the role of the trustee.
The Initial Phase
If you establish a revocable living trust, you would be the trustee while you are alive, so you would retain complete control of the assets in the trust. Your access to the resources that you signed over to the trust would not change at all.
As the name plainly indicates, if you ever want to revoke the trust, you can do so at any time, and you would reassume direct personal possession of the property. You can change the terms as you see fit, and you can convey property into the trust after it has been established.
When you are working up the trust declaration, you name a trustee to act as the administrator after your passing, and your heirs would be the beneficiaries. From a legal perspective, any competent adult that is willing to assume the role can act as the trustee.
You could name a willing party that you know, and you can alternately engage a professional fiduciary. Trust companies and the trust departments of banks provide trustee services for a fee.
After Your Passing
When the time comes, the successor trustee will assume the role. The trustee will obtain copies of the death certificate, and they will notify the Social Security Administration and the post office to terminate mail deliveries.
Beneficiaries will be notified, and the trustee will obtain an Employer Identification Number and open a trust bank account. The trustee will secure the assets, and ownership of the property will be transferred to the trustee so they have the ability to distribute the resources.
Property appraisals will be ordered, and final debts will be paid. If there are investments, the trustee will review them.
Ultimately, the assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes. In the majority of cases, all of the resources will be distributed as soon as possible, and the trust will be closed.
However, one of the benefits of a living trust is the ability to allow the trustee to manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary, or multiple beneficiaries, for an extended period of time. This is necessary for a minor, and this arrangement is sometimes used to protect spendthrifts.
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