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What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal estate planning document that allows you to designate beneficiaries who will receive your assets upon your passing. The benefit of using a trust is to bypass the probate court process, which means that the beneficiaries of the trust can receive asset distributions, such as personal property and real estate, without having to appear in court to litigate inheritance issues. There are different kinds of trusts that accomplish different goals: living trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts, charitable trusts, and others.

What Information is Required to Establish a Trust?

Generally, a trust must have a creator known as a settlor. The settlor must name beneficiaries who will receive distributions of assets under the trust at a specific time, usually upon the death of the settlor. The settlor also designates trustees who are fiduciaries that act similar to executors in the probate context.

The trustees and successor trustees carefully manage the trust assets and ensure that the beneficiaries receive distributions as provided under the trust. Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the document itself, a trust may need to be accompanied by notarized real estate deeds, assignment verification documents, and a list of assets to be distributed under the terms of the trust.

How Much Does a Trust Cost?

Peace of mind comes at a price, and trusts are more expensive than wills because unlike wills, they avoid the probate process altogether which saves money in the long run. The average trust costs no less than $2,000. The cost of a trust may be higher or lower, depending on the individual circumstances of the settlor, the assets in the trust, and the extent of beneficiaries and beneficiary qualifications.

Additional factors that may increase costs are the inclusion of power of attorney documents, living wills, or health care directives, which can be separately prepared alongside a trust to provide doctors and hospitals with your preferences concerning medical care you may wish to receive or not receive during end-of-life or incapacitation. A trust lawyer can help you determine the extent of your needs.

Should I Hire an Estate Planning Attorney to Help Draft My Trust?

A law firm specializing in estate law can help you decide what kind of trust is appropriate for your circumstances. Using law offices to assist you with drafting a trust can give you peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones will be able to streamline estate administration and potentially avoid unnecessary estate taxes.

Oftentimes, a trust attorney or estate planning lawyer will provide general legal advice through a free consultation. Their years of experience can help you decide how to best apprise yourself of legal services that ensure proper trust administration, tax planning, and other legal matters related to these practice areas.

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