Living trusts is a written legal document that partially substitutes for a will. With a living trust, your assets (your home, bank accounts and stocks, for example) are put into the trust, administered for your benefit during your lifetime, and then transferred to your beneficiaries when you die.
Most people name themselves as the trustee in charge of managing their trust’s assets. This way, even though your assets have been put into the trust, you can remain in control of your assets during your lifetime. You can also name a successor trustee (a person or an institution) who will manage the trust’s assets if you ever become unable or unwilling to do so yourself.
Your living trust agreement
- Gives the trustee the legal right to manage and control the assets held in your trust
- Instructs the trustee to manage the trust’s assets for your benefit during your lifetime
- Names the beneficiaries (persons or charitable organizations) who are to receive your trust’s assets when you die
- Gives guidance and certain powers and authority to the trustee to manage and distribute your trust’s assets.
In setting up your living trust, you may serve as its trustee initially or you may choose someone else to do so. You can name a trustee to take over the trust’s management for your benefit if you ever become unable or unwilling to manage it yourself. And at your death, the trustee — similar to the executor of a will — would then gather your assets, pay any debts, claims and taxes, and distribute your assets according to your instructions. Unlike a will, however, this can all be done without court supervision or approval.
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