What is a simple trust?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Trusts are generally created as a way to manage property, such as cash or real estate, and transfer it to someone else at a certain point in time. The person who creates the trust is called a settlor, while the individual who receives the property from the trust is called the beneficiary.

Trust assets may transfer to a child or other party at a certain age. Trusts are commonly used to divide and reallocate wealth after the original owner passes on. Whether it’s a revocable trust or irrevocable trust, it can make the process simpler with certain benefits for taxable income.

What is the role of the trustee?

The person who is designated to manage the trust is referred to as the trustee. They have legal title to the trust property until it is transferred once the trigger event happens. They are considered fiduciaries, meaning that the individuals must act in the best interest of the beneficiary when making decisions about the trust. Overall, the settlor has a great deal of discretion in creating a trust, but some state laws do impose restrictions.

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What are simple trusts?

A simple trust, also known as a bare trust, is one to which the trustee does not have to do anything other than ensure that the trust property is given to the named beneficiary within the time frame specified by the trust. They have no other duties, unlike with other types of trusts. A simple trust arrangement may be a living trust which originates within the grantor’s life or after-death. It’s also unlikely to pay the trustee a trust income.

Like all trusts, the simple trust is governed by the trust agreement, which is basically a contract between the settlor and the trustee detailing the settlor’s wishes and intentions. Questions about the management and distribution of the trust property, as well as the roles and duties of different people and entities involved are usually answered by following the trust agreement’s instructions. If the trust agreement cannot settle an issue, the matter may go to court to be resolved by a judge according to state trusts and estates laws.

The trust can be created through a written document, like a trust document or a will, an oral declaration, or a court order. The most important aspects of creating a legally binding trust include showing a clear intention to create the trust, clearly identifying the property to be placed in the trust, and specifically naming the beneficiaries of the trust whether they be individuals, businesses, or charitable organizations.

How much does it cost to set up a simple trust?

A trust creator can compare options with an attorney. The costs to set up and manage a trust vary depending on the kinds of trusts. The more involved the execution of the trust, the more you’ll have to pay in one way or another.

The simple trust may be less expensive than others because the work is minimal. However, costs can rise depending on the size of the trust. The more property in the trust, the more time professionals will have to spend on expenses like record keeping, tax planning, capital gains, and account maintenance.

What Kind of Trust Instrument Do You Need?

If you’re looking to use a trust agreement, always talk to an estate lawyer who can explain the details and help you make an informed decision. Trust beneficiaries may create more issues later on if it isn’t done properly. Something as simple as control over trust agreements has become a parody for many. A trust is commonly used to make the distribution of assets simpler. It can only work as well as it’s designed to.

It may seem appealing to always stick to a simple trust. Depending on your situation, a specialized trust may be more appropriate in the long run. Whatever your goals, talk to a trust professional to explore your trust options.

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What is the Taxation of Trusts?

There are two areas of a non-grantor trust: simple and complex trusts.

Additionally, a small tax exemption is allowed for both simple and complex trusts.

How can you get legal help?

Although simple trusts are not as complicated as other trusts, the laws that govern trusts can be, so it is always a good idea to speak with a qualified trusts and estates attorney before creating any kind of trust. 

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