As a middle-class American, you may assume that trust funds are only useful for the very wealthy. However, if you own a home and have other assets you would like to pass on to loved ones, creating a living trust may be a smart financial choice.
This important estate-planning tool allows you to fund a trust that manages your assets during your life and gives instructions for how property should transfer to heirs and beneficiaries after your death.
How do living trusts work?
You can fund a living trust with many different types of assets, including investments, bank accounts, life insurance policies, real estate and personal property. When you create the trust, you can choose to manage the fund yourself during your lifetime or name someone else to act as trustee.
You should also name a backup trustee. If you choose to manage the trust yourself, your successor may be able to take over if you become incapacitated. Your backup trustee can also take care of distributing your assets after your death according to the terms you outline.
What are the benefits of a living trust?
Having a trust in addition to a will may help you to make the management and transfer of your assets smoother both during and after your lifetime. Common reasons to create a living trust include:
- Having assets pass directly to heirs without going through probate
- Keeping details about the size of your estate and gifts to heirs, beneficiaries private
- Designating an alternate/successor trustee who can take over your finances easily if you become incapacitated
Finally, living trusts are often an attractive choice because they are flexible. If you want to remove assets, choose a different trustee, change beneficiaries or terminate the trust entirely, you may do so whenever you wish.