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By: Scott Grossman on December 7th, 2023

What Does Putting Property in a Trust Mean?

When it comes to estate planning and asset management, one term that often comes up is trust. But what exactly does it mean to put property in a trust? In simple terms, a trust is a legal entity created to hold and manage assets for the benefit of individuals or organizations, known as beneficiaries. The person who makes the trust, known as the grantor or settlor, transfers their property into the trust, and a trustee is appointed to oversee the management and distribution of the trust assets.

A trust is established through a legal document called a trust agreement. It outlines the terms and conditions under which the trust operates. This agreement identifies the beneficiaries, specifies the assets held in the trust, and details how the assets should be managed and distributed. By placing property in a trust, the grantor effectively transfers legal ownership to the trust, allowing the trustee to collect and distribute the assets according to the trust’s provisions.

The settlor can create different types of trusts, each with its purpose and benefits. Some common types include revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and testamentary trusts. The choice of trust type depends on the grantor’s objectives, asset portfolio, and the intended beneficiaries.

Trustee Fiduciary Duties

As the legal guardian of the trust and its assets, the trustee has specific fiduciary duties that they must fulfill. A fiduciary is an individual entrusted with the responsibility to act in another person’s or entity’s best interests. In the case of a trust, the trustee is the fiduciary. The trustee’s primary duty is to administer the trust in a manner consistent with the wishes of the grantor and the best interests of the beneficiaries.

One of the trustee’s vital fiduciary duties is loyalty. That means that they must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and avoid any conflicts of interest. They should not use the trust assets for personal gain or engage in transactions that could harm the beneficiaries. Additionally, the trustee must exercise reasonable care, skill, and prudence in managing the trust assets. That includes making informed investment decisions, maintaining accurate records, and informing the beneficiaries about the trust status.

Another essential fiduciary duty of the trustee is the duty to account. The trustee must keep detailed records of all trust transactions. That includes income received, expenses paid, and any distributions to the beneficiaries. These records should be made available to the beneficiaries upon request. They may also need to be submitted to the court or other relevant authorities.

Managing Assets through Trust

Putting property in a trust can provide several benefits when managing assets. One significant advantage is the ability to avoid probate. Probate is the legal process through which a person’s assets are distributed after death. It can be time-consuming and expensive, often subject to court supervision. By placing property in a trust, the assets are no longer considered part of the grantor’s estate and, therefore, not subject to probate. That can streamline the transfer of assets to beneficiaries and potentially reduce costs.

Additionally, a trust can provide continuity of asset management. If the grantor becomes incapacitated or passes away, the trustee can continue to manage the trust assets on behalf of the beneficiaries without interruption. That can ensure that the assets are preserved and distributed according to the grantor’s wishes. That means even if they can no longer personally oversee them.

Another advantage of managing assets through a trust is privacy. Unlike a will, which becomes a matter of public record upon the grantor’s death, a trust can provide greater confidentiality. Trusts are generally not subject to public scrutiny, allowing the grantor to keep their financial affairs private.

In addition to these benefits, a trust can be a valuable tool for tax planning and asset protection. Depending on the type of trust and the specific provisions in the trust agreement, it may be possible to minimize estate taxes, protect assets from creditors, and ensure the long-term financial security of the beneficiaries.

Is Your Trustee Breaching Their Fiduciary Duties

In conclusion, putting property in a trust involves transferring legal ownership of assets to a separate legal entity to benefit designated beneficiaries. As the fiduciary, the trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets in the best interests of the beneficiaries. By utilizing a trust, individuals can streamline asset management, avoid probate, maintain privacy, and take advantage of various tax and asset protection strategies. Consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney or financial advisor can provide valuable guidance in establishing and managing a trust that aligns with specific objectives and circumstances.

Need more information on Trust Litigation. Or, to ensure they are following their trustee’s duties or even removing a trustee, check out our complete overview of California Trust Litigation, available on our website. If you have more questions about your rights as a Beneficiary and what you should know moving forward.

To learn more about the nuances of trust property, check out the following articles listed below.  

The Challenges of “Selling a House as a Trustee” and abiding by the fiduciary duty. “Can a Trustee Sell Trust Property Without Beneficiaries’ Approval?Is a Trust the Best Option for Your Property?” What Are The Common Mistakes Trustees Make When Selling Trust Property?” 

If you are still having some trouble, have any more questions, or want to talk to someone about your case, please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form below.

It’s best to reach out as soon as possible. The longer you take, the more damage your trust could take. Please call us at (888) 443-6590, and we would be more than happy to see if we can assist you.