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The role of a trust in estate planning

A trust may be a better choice than a will for some South Carolina residents. It can offer a number of advantages over a will, including more privacy since a trust does not have to go through probate. A trust can protect an estate from taxes, provide charitable contributions and protect assets from an irresponsible beneficiary as well as from creditors and divorce. A trust can provide for a spouse but ensure that children receive assets if the spouse remarries. It can allow assets to be left for a beneficiary with special needs without affecting that beneficiary's receipt of government benefits.

The person who creates a trust is known as the settlor, and the settlor appoints a trustee to manage the trust. A trustee has a number of duties related to the trust. The terms of the trust will specify how transparent the trustee must be with beneficiaries. The trustee is required to behave objectively toward beneficiaries and manage the assets in the trust responsibly.

Revocable or living trusts are a popular choice. This type of trust could be set up to provide for a surviving spouse with minor children and to distribute assets to the children when they are older, or it could provide for a retired spouse, children and grandchildren.

An attorney may be able to help a person create a trust based on that person's goals. In some cases, a better option may be an irrevocable trust. This type of trust does not give the settlor as much control over the assets, but it may provide benefits that a revocable trust does not. For a complex trust, a professional trustee may be a better choice than a family member.

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