What is a trust?

Trusts are unique to the US and a handful of other countries. Simply, they are contracts between you and the state, in this case, California, that control how to deal with property.

As the person creating the trust, you are the “settlor” (sometimes also called the “trustor”). As settlor, you are responsible for putting assets into the trust with the advice of your estate planning attorney. Importantly, your attorney will also tell you which assets do not go into the trust. There can be more than one settlor of a trust, such as when spouses or Registered Domestic Partners create a trust.

Depending on the type of trust you create, you may also be the trustee (or co-trustee, if there is more than one trustee). The trustee is responsible for making sure that the terms of the trust are carried out. You can also name a trusted person or professional fiduciary as trustee.

Whoever you choose, the trustee must follow the instructions in the trust document. Many people use trusts to avoid probate and to simplify the transfer of property after they pass away. In that case, a trustee is responsible for making sure the transfers are done correctly.

The State of California’s role is to make sure that the terms of your trust are enforced and respected. It also sets the rules for interpreting and, in unusual cases, modifying your trust. Rules for California trusts are typically found in the Probate Code though they may also be found elsewhere in the state’s codified laws.

You can set up an appointment to talk about whether a trust is right for you, by contacting us here.