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Trusts and Trust Administration

A trust is a legal arrangement established by a trustor (also called the grantor or settlor) where assets are transferred to a trustee who manages those assets for one or more beneficiaries according to the trust terms. Trusts are commonly used in estate planning to accomplish goals such as avoiding probate, protecting assets, minimizing taxes, and providing customized inheritance management.

Role and Obligations of the Trustee

The trustee has legal title to and control over the assets placed in the trust. They have a fiduciary duty to follow the instructions in the trust document and manage the assets prudently for the benefit of all beneficiaries. The trustee must keep accurate accounts, provide trust reporting to beneficiaries, file tax returns, and follow trust administration laws. Trustees can be held liable if they breach their legal obligations. Even irrevocable trusts can be modified by a court if there is justification.

Types of Trusts and Their Purposes

There are many different types of trusts, each designed for specific estate planning purposes:

  • Revocable Living Trusts: The trustor retains control to modify or revoke this trust during life. Avoids probate and provides continuity if trustor becomes incapacitated.
  • Irrevocable Trusts: Cannot be changed once executed. Provides asset protection from creditors and lawsuits. An alternative to avoid probate upon death, it used for tax savings but with less flexibility.
  • Bypass Trusts: Created under a will to hold assets for a surviving spouse, allowing full use but avoiding estate taxes when second spouse dies. It creates two separate trusts upon the death of the first spouse.
  • Crummey Trusts: Allows gift contributions to trust while still qualifying for annual gift tax exclusions by giving beneficiary withdrawal rights.
  • Charitable Trusts: Leaves assets to a charity/non-profit upon death or after period of time. Provides income and estate tax benefits.
  • Spendthrift Trusts: Protects trust assets from beneficiaries’ creditors by restricting transfers of beneficiary interest.
  • Special Needs Trusts: Holds inheritance for disabled beneficiaries without affecting government benefits.
  • Management Trusts: Provides professional oversight of investments and distributions to guidance beneficiaries on using their inheritance wisely over time.

Creating and Funding the Trust

The process of creating a trust begins with choosing the right type of trust and working with an attorney to draft the customized trust document. The trustor must properly transfer ownership of assets to the trustee to fund the trust. Trust assets can include real estate, financial accounts, business interests, personal property, life insurance policies, and more.

Trust Registration and Identification

To create an administrative paper trail, the trust document is registered with authorities and receives a tax ID number. Trust assets must also be properly retitled in the name of the trustee to reflect the change in ownership and control.

Selecting a Trustee

Choosing a trustee is an important decision that should consider the type of trust, nature of assets, and needs of beneficiaries. Individual or corporate trustees can be selected based on relevant expertise. Successor trustees provide continuity if the initial trustee cannot serve.

The Takeaway

Trusts can be extremely useful and flexible estate planning tools to accomplish objectives such as avoiding probate, protecting assets, reducing taxes, and customizing inheritance management for beneficiaries. However, properly establishing and administering a trust that is tailored for your specific situation and goals requires careful planning and experienced legal guidance.

Thoughtfully crafted trusts can provide substantial benefits, but require expertise to properly create and manage over the long-term.

Why Choose Us?

Local Expertise: With a focus on probate and assisting clients in Houston, we understand local peculiarities and leverage our established network to expedite the probate process.

Vast Experience: Our attorneys bring years of dedicated experience in navigating Harris County’s probate system.

Client-Centered Approach: We recognize the emotional stress often associated with probate administration. Our objective is to alleviate this stress by providing you with top-notch legal support.

Contact us today to arrange a FREE consultation and make the probate process simpler for you.

Our Houston Trust Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with preparing and administering trusts. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters.


Disclaimer:  The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney.


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