Guide: What is a Trust, and How do you Set one up?

Loren S. Casuto, Esq June 4, 2024 News

A trust is a legal arrangement where one party (the grantor or settlor) transfers assets to another party (the trustee) to manage for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary). Trusts are commonly used in estate planning, asset protection, and charitable giving. 

Here’s a detailed overview of the key components and types of trusts, as well as their uses and benefits. Learn more about special needs trust services

What are the Key Components of a Trust?

  1. Grantor/Settlor: The person who creates the trust and transfers assets into it.
  2. Trustee: The individual or institution responsible for managing the trust’s assets according to the terms set forth in the trust document. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
  3. Beneficiary: The person or entity that benefits from the trust. There can be one or multiple beneficiaries, and they can be either individuals, organizations, or charitable entities.
  4. Trust Document: The legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of the trust, including the purpose, the roles of the trustee and beneficiaries, and how the trust’s assets should be managed and distributed.

2 people meet with an attorney to discuss a trust

Setting up a trust involves several key steps and considerations. Here’s a detailed guide on what you need to set up a trust:

1.  First, Determine the Purpose of the Trust

Understand the reasons for setting up the trust, such as:

  • Estate Planning: To manage and distribute your assets after your death.
  • Tax Planning: To minimize estate or gift taxes.
  • Asset Protection: To protect assets from creditors.
  • Charitable Giving: To support charitable causes.
  • Care for Dependents: To provide for minors, elderly parents, or individuals with special needs.

What are the Uses and Benefits of Trusts?

  1. Avoiding Probate:
    • Trusts, especially revocable living trusts, help avoid the lengthy and public probate process, allowing for a quicker and more private distribution of assets.
  2. Tax Planning:
    • Certain types of trusts can help minimize estate and gift taxes, preserving more wealth for the beneficiaries.
  3. Asset Protection:
    • Trusts can protect assets from creditors, lawsuits, and other claims, depending on how they are structured.
  4. Control Over Distribution:
    • Trusts allow the grantor to set specific terms for how and when the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries, which can be particularly useful for managing inheritances for minors or financially inexperienced beneficiaries.
  5. Providing for Dependents:
    • Trusts can ensure that minors, elderly parents, or individuals with special needs are cared for financially without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.
  6. Charitable Giving:
    • Trusts can be used to support charitable causes, providing both a legacy for the grantor and potential tax benefits.
  7. Flexibility and Privacy:
    • Trusts can offer more flexibility in estate planning and provide a level of privacy that wills do not, as trusts generally do not become public records.

2. Choose the Type of Trust

Select the type of trust that best suits your needs. Common types include:

  • Revocable Living Trust: Can be altered or revoked during the grantor’s lifetime.
  • Irrevocable Trust: Cannot be easily changed or revoked once established.
  • Testamentary Trust: Created through a will and becomes effective upon the grantor’s death.
  • Special Needs Trust: Provides for beneficiaries with disabilities without affecting their eligibility for government benefits.
  • Charitable Trust: Benefits a charitable organization or purpose.
  • Spendthrift Trust: Protects beneficiaries who may not be financially responsible.


3. Select the Trustees

Choose individuals or institutions (such as a bank or trust company) to act as trustees. Trustees are responsible for managing the trust’s assets and ensuring that the terms of the trust are carried out.

4. Identify the Beneficiaries

Clearly identify the beneficiaries who will receive the benefits of the trust. This can include family members, friends, charitable organizations, or other entities.

5. Determine the Trust Assets

List the assets you want to place in the trust. These can include:

  • Real estate
  • Bank accounts
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
  • Business interests
  • Personal property (jewelry, art, collectibles)
  • Life insurance policies

6. Draft the Trust Document

Work with an attorney who specializes in estate planning to draft the trust document. This legal document outlines:

  • The purpose of the trust
  • The names of the grantor (you), trustees, and beneficiaries
  • The assets included in the trust
  • Instructions for managing and distributing the assets
  • Any specific terms or conditions

7. Sign and Notarize the Trust Document

Once the trust document is drafted, it must be signed by the grantor and, in many cases, notarized to be legally binding.

8. Fund the Trust

Transfer ownership of the specified assets into the trust. This may involve:

  • Changing the title of real estate to the name of the trust
  • Updating account registrations for bank accounts and investments
  • Transferring ownership of personal property
  • Assigning ownership of life insurance policies to the trust

9. Notify Relevant Parties

Inform the beneficiaries and trustees about the trust’s existence and provide them with copies of the trust document. This ensures everyone understands their roles and rights.

10. Maintain the Trust

Ensure ongoing management and compliance with the terms of the trust. Trustees must:

  • Manage the trust assets responsibly
  • Keep accurate records of all transactions
  • Provide regular accounting to beneficiaries, as required
  • Adhere to any legal and tax reporting requirements

11. Review and Update the Trust

Periodically review the trust to ensure it continues to meet your needs and reflects any changes in your circumstances or in the law. Update the trust document as necessary, especially if it’s a revocable living trust.

Additional Considerations

  • Legal and Tax Advice: Consult with an attorney and a tax advisor to understand the legal and tax implications of setting up and maintaining the trust.
  • Cost: Be prepared for legal fees, trustee fees, and potential ongoing management costs.
  • State Laws: Trust laws vary by state, so ensure your trust complies with the laws in your jurisdiction.

By carefully planning and working with professionals, you can set up a trust that effectively meets your goals and provides for your beneficiaries according to your wishes. The success of any treatment option depends on effective communication and consistent follow-through.  That’s why Rehabilitation Care Coordination provides unique care coordination services to aid patients in need. Contact us today to learn more and see how we can help.


Loren S. Casuto, Esq.