Sometimes, the creator of a trust also acts as its trustee. This situation most often happens when someone creates a trust intended to benefit relatives after the creator passes away.
Why Would the Trust Creator Act as the Trustee?
Often, someone placing his or her property in trust (a “settlor”) wants to maintain some control over the property. He or she might create a trust that appoints himself or herself as the trustee, at least for now. The property can get transferred into the trust, but the settlor still gets to make the management decisions. The settlor might even be one of the beneficiaries too (but cannot be the only beneficiary).
As long as the settlor is alive, he or she can manage trust property and add more property to the trust. Placing property in trust during your lifetime has many advantages, including privacy, asset protection, and sometimes tax benefits.
What Happens If the Settlor Passes Away?
If the settlor passes away, a successor trustee should take over trust management. This trustee is either named in the trust document or appointed by the court. The successor trustee picks up where the settlor-trustee left off, managing assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
Often, settlors structure their trusts so that assets in their estate “pour over” into their trust once they pass away. This may avoid the need for probate of the estate. It also may allow the settlor to more readily pass on assets to the trust beneficiaries over time.
If a settlor does not have a “pour over” will and trust, then assets not placed in trust before the settlor’s death must get distributed according to the will. Unfortunately, some settlors intend to transfer ownership of assets to their trust but never get around to completing the formalities. This can result in a complicated estate distribution and beneficiaries not receiving the benefits that the settlor intended. If you plan to be settlor and trustee, ensure that you complete all transfers of ownership as soon as possible.
Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.