A trust is a legal entity which transfers property or assets to a manager or “trustee”. The person who creates the trust, or “trustor”, determines how the trust’s proceeds should be distributed and the trustee manages the property for the beneficiary.
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The major types of trust are:
- Living Trusts. A trust established during the life of the trustor. It can provide significant tax benefits, and can allow the trustor to avoid estate taxes. A revocable living trust can be changed or ended by the trustor, while an irrevocable trust cannot be ended by the trustor without court action.
- Testamentary Trusts. Testamentary trusts take effect upon the death of the trustor, who can make changes to its details at any time before death. A testamentary trust therefore allows the trustor to maintain close control over their property.
- QTIP Trusts. A Qualified Terminal Interest Property, or “QTIP”, is a marital trust. It postpones any estate tax until both spouses have died. The delay may mean higher estate taxes, but it allows the surviving spouse to reap the maximum benefit of the assets before his or her death.
- Generation Skipping Trust. A generation skipping trust gives a trustor’s assets to their grandchildren while providing income to the trustor’s children. These trusts are complicated to establish, and current law taxes these trusts above a certain monetary limit.
There are many other types of trusts, tailored to specific local laws and individual situations. A trust can be an important part of your estate plan, but the complex nature of these legal entities and the variation between them means that you should consult an experienced attorney before establishing a trust of any kind.