Frequently Asked Questions


What is a trust?

A revocable trust is a legal agreement between two parties:

The trustee administers and manages the assets for the benefit of a third party. This party or person is known as the beneficiary.

When a person first creates a trust, they can be all of these people – the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiary.

Who needs a trust?

Not everyone needs a trust, but most people should consider one. Trusts aren’t just for the affluent.

Trusts help avoid probate administration of your assets when you die or are incapacitated. Trusts also provide an efficient way for another party to take care of your assets if you’re unable to.

After your death, the trust can continue on to provide financial assistance to your children. You decide when and how the children, or other beneficiaries, receive the assets.

What is probate?

Probate is the process a legal court takes to conclude all your legal and financial matters after your death. It’s the process by which a court distributes your estate. If you’ve prepared a will, the court will distribute according to that will.

Should I have a will or a trust?

Most people need both. A will is just your instructions to the probate court. A trust helps your estate avoid probate court. This can save on settlement costs and time. A trust is also handled privately. The instructions in your will are open to the public.

Do you set up trusts?

Trust companies can’t prepare trust agreements. You will need to see an attorney who doesn’t work for a trust company.

Who should be my trustee?

This is an important decision. Many people prefer an independent trustee, like as a trust company. Some people create problems by naming their child or children as the successor trustee of their trust. Most children do not have the knowledge, interest, time, or desire to be a trustee. Children can quickly be overwhelmed by the duties required of them. If you become incapacitated, the job can go on for years.

Naming an independent trustee removes the emotional element often associated with friends or family. This also ensures that your wishes are fulfilled exactly as they are stated in the trust. In addition, trust companies are regulated, and they’re experts at what they do.

Do I need a lawyer to set up a trust?

We strongly recommend that you hire an attorney to prepare a trust and the other documents that make up a complete estate plan. Not all attorneys prepare estate-planning documents. Get referrals from friends, family, or trust companies.

Who manages the money in a trust?

The trustee is responsible for the management of all trust assets.

Many times, a trust company will be employed by the individual trustee to provide investment management only during the grantor’s lifetime.

How much does it cost?

The only cost to set up a trust is the legal expense from the attorney. This can vary, depending on the location and scope of work. Most attorneys will provide this information upon request.

Does a will avoid probate?

This is one of the biggest misconceptions we see. A will provides your instructions to the probate court if probate is required. It’s important to have a will in case some, or all, of your estate requires probate administration. With proper planning, most people will be able to avoid probate. In that case, the will never plays a role in the distribution of their assets.

Do I lose control when I have a trust?

When most people use the term “trust,” they’re referring to a revocable trust. With this kind of trust, the grantor, or settlor, who establishes the trust is always in control. This is true unless that person becomes incapacitated or dies.

The grantor or settlor can always use other trustees or money managers. However, as grantor, they can always make changes to their trust and change their trustees at any time.