Some people with specific situations can benefit from having a living trust (also known as intervivos trust). A living trust is basically an agreement you have with yourself. Drafting a living trust requires you (the grantor) to establish the trust and then choose assets to “fund” the trust. You would probably want access to the funds during your lifetime and further specify how you would like the assets to be distributed, by your trustee, to your heirs after your death. Assets held in trust are considered private and are generally not subject to probate court involvement.

After the trust is established, assets must be transferred into the trust. These assets can include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate, life insurance, and household goods and other tangible personal property. You can specify, in the trust, how you want your assets distributed to your heirs after your death. You can request that assets held in trust be distributed over time, allowing remaining funds to grow in value over the years and providing more protection for your heirs. Trusts may not be appropriate for every estate based on the work they require over your lifetime and fees that may be regularly incurred in the drafting of the trust. Consult with an estate planning attorney for advice about whether setting up a living trust makes sense for you.

Avoiding the probate court process is a common reason people want to have a living trust. However, avoiding probate isn’t always the right decision for every estate. Sometimes, having the probate court oversee your executor and final wishes can be a good idea. If the avoidance of probate is your desire there may be easier ways to accomplish this goal. Estate planning techniques such as joint tenancy, pay-on-death designations for bank accounts, and beneficiary designations for life insurance and individual retirement plans and pensions might be helpful. These options allow you to designate beneficiaries to the accounts or property, allowing heirs to receive the funds or property more quickly, more privately, and less expensively than if they’d been distributed through a will and probate court. Consult with an estate planning attorney for help in determining whether a living trust or other options is appropriate for you.