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Estate planning calls on the use of trusts for many purposes

Trusts are often used in the planning of estates in California by those who want to protect and distribute their assets as desired. There are two general kinds of trusts used in estate planning, testamentary or living.  A testamentary trust is drawn up as a provision in an individual's last will and testament.

The testamentary trust takes effect at the death of its maker, who is called the testator. After the will is taken to the court house and probated, the testamentary trust will be put into operation by the executor or other personal representative appointed to administer the estate. The second major kind of trust is the living trust, also called an inter vivos (during life) trust. The living trust generally takes effect immediately because it is active during the grantor's lifetime.

Testamentary trusts are useful for distributing assets to one's children or other beneficiaries at death. The trust provision in the will designates the person who will serve as the trustee upon the testator's death. If any beneficiaries are minors, the trustee will hold, and periodically distribute, the assets for the welfare of the beneficiaries.

Generally, the trust corpus will be distributed to the beneficiary upon his/her reaching a certain age as stated in the will. The living trust is set up by a grantor or settlor. That person puts up the funds for the trust and may even appoint him or herself to be the trustee of the trust.

There are many uses for a living trust, including as part of a long-term estate planning goal of trying to keep the assets in the family over a period of generations. Trust practice is complex, and the many uses of a trust are too varied to discuss in one article. The best way to get started is by obtaining a consultation with an estate planning attorney in California who has experience in trust administration.  

Source:, "Estate trusts remain important to protect assets", David H. Dickey, Nov. 15, 2017

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