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The trust bequest assets can be cash, stocks or bonds, real estate, collections or just about any kind of property.  These assets can be managed for the benefit of trust beneficiaries, or disposed of to end the trust.  Trusts can be of two basic types:  Revocable and irrevocable.  In a revocable trust, the donor can change any provision in the trust, such as the beneficiary, the trustee, the nature of a bequest or revoke the entire arrangement.  This is modification is done by making a trust amendment or trust revocation.  An irrevocable trust is one that can't be changed after the agreement has been signed, or by its design becomes irrevocable after the donor dies or after some other specific point in time.


The trust can be created and operate during the lifetime of the donor—it’s called an “intervivos” trust.  Trust can also be created during the lifetime of the donor but not take effect until after death—in which case it’s called a “testamentary” trust.  The trust is usually referenced in the donor’s will with instructions to the executor of the will that assets not designated or distributed through the will are controlled in trust.  The trust document itself can be simple or complex depending upon the extent of the assets, the detail of the instructions, the number of beneficiaries and the taxation impacts. 


 The trust is often included in the estate plan along with the will. Several reasons exist for this: 


  1. Avoiding probate court:  assets held in the name of a revocable trust at the time of a person’s death will pass directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust agreement and outside of the probate process.

  2. Protecting the privacy of the donor’s property and beneficiaries after death: by avoiding probate, the trust agreement will remain a private document and avoid becoming a public record for all the world to see and read. This will keep the details about the donor’s assets and to whom they are left a private family matter. (Contrast this with a simple will that has been admitted to probate - it becomes a public court record that anyone can see and read.) 

  3. Planning for possible incapacity:  assets held in the name of a trust at the time a person becomes mentally incapacitated can be managed by their “disability trustee” instead of by a court-supervised guardian or conservator.

Where It Works
  • Donor prefers a deferred gift

  • Donor flexibility to gift a specific amount/asset or a % of estate

  • Donor interested in estate tax rather than income tax deduction

  • Donor doesn’t want to part with the asset while alive

  • Donor receives philanthropic recognition

Trust Bequests

A basic trust is a written arrangement where the donor (“trustor”) gives control of assets to a person or institution (“trustee”) with instructions to manage/dispose of the assets held in the trust.

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