Even though we don’t talk about it, we all know that, someday, our time will run out. When your time does come, you’ll have stuff to pass on to your loved ones. You’re probably thinking that your kids and wife (and ex-wife and your other kids), are all going to play nice and follow your wishes. You’d be dead wrong.
I’ve seen some of the craziest, dirtiest, and most unscrupulous behavior from heirs. Behavior that would make your skin crawl. I’ve seen families broken apart and siblings at war.
You’re probably wondering: “How do I make sure this doesn’t happen to me?” That’s what I’m here to tell you. Let’s get started.
What You’ll Need to Know
There’s a lot to cover, so I’m going to break this up into three separate articles:
- Basics of Trusts: What you need to know
- Wills vs. Trusts: Why wills suck
- What happens when you don’t have a trust
Definitions You Need to Know
What is a Trust?
A Trust is a legal contract between a Grantor, the person who transfers their assets into the name of a Trust and the Trustee (the person who administers the Trust). The Trustee is legally obligated to follow the rules of the Trust (also known as the Trust “bylaws”). Trust law is different in each State. In other words, if you have a Trust set up in Nevada, all the laws don’t apply to Massachusetts. So, when you’re setting up a Trust, make sure you hire someone in your legal State of residence.
This is the person who transfers ownership of property (real estate or other personal property) into the name of a Trust.
A person who is given control, or power, to administer a Trust. The Trustee has a legal obligation to administer the Trust consistent with the Trust’s bylaws. You can be the Trustee, but you will also need to name the person who would become the Trustee when you die.
The people or organizations which get “the goods” from the Trust when the Grantor dies.
Here’s a quick example that ties everything together:
Steve transfers his home into his new Living Trust called “The 2023 Steve Living Trust.” While he is alive, he is the Trustee of the Living Trust. Let’s assume that Steve put his house, bank account, and financial investments into his Trust. Let’s also assume that the Trust says that when Steve dies, Romeo will become the Trustee but, if for any reason Romeo cannot step up and actually become the Trustee, then a Professional Corporate Trustee (such as Wells Fargo Trust Services) will become the new Trustee. The Trust goes on to say that Steve will retain control of the Trust so long as he’s alive, but once he dies, the new Trustee will be required to sell all of Steve’s property and assets and to even split the money between Steve’s kids.
|Trust “Lingo”||Who’s Who|
|The Trust||The 2023 Steve Living Trust|
|The Grantor||Steve, because he gave his property to the Trust|
|The Trustee||Steve, while he’s alive; Romeo, when Steve dies|
After reading this, you are probably thinking that Trusts are not as complex as you may have thought. That’s because, before 1954, Trusts were only for the rich and wealthy, but now they are for everybody.
Probate, Wills, and Why Having Only a Will Sucks
Now that you understand the basics of Trusts, in my next article I’m going to go over why you want to avoid Probate, which is when the Government–not you–decides where your stuff goes when you die. This is why you always need want more than just a Will.