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What is a Trust Fund?

A trust fund, often simply referred to as a trust, is a legal arrangement in which an individual, known as the grantor, transfers assets to another party, the trustee, for the benefit of designated persons or organizations, called beneficiaries. Trust funds are created for various reasons and can offer several advantages. They provide control over how assets are managed and distributed, protect assets from creditors, minimize taxes, and achieve other financial goals.

Types of Trust Funds

There are several types of trust funds, each serving a unique purpose. Here are some common types of trusts:

Revocable Trust

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, can be altered or revoked by the grantor during their lifetime. Since the trust can be changed, assets in the trust are still considered part of the grantor's taxable estate. Revocable trusts ensure assets pass to named beneficiaries without going through probate.

Irrevocable Trust

Irrevocable trusts cannot be changed or revoked once they have been established. Assets transferred to an irrevocable trust are no longer part of the grantor's estate, offering tax benefits and protection from creditors.

Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is created through a will and becomes effective upon the grantor's death. This type of trust allows the grantor to maintain control over their assets during their lifetime and ensure proper distribution after their passing.

Charitable Trust

A charitable trust is created to support charitable organizations or purposes. The grantor receives a tax deduction for their contributions and can choose to provide income to beneficiaries for a specific time period or for their entire lifetime, with remaining assets going to the designated charity.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is established to provide financial support to a person with disabilities without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits. This type of trust is designed to supplement, rather than replace, governmental aid.

Benefits of Establishing a Trust Fund

There are several key benefits to establishing a trust fund, depending on the specific trust and the grantor's financial objectives. Here are some of the advantages:

Avoiding Probate

One significant benefit of setting up a trust fund is avoiding the probate process, which is the court-supervised distribution of a deceased individual's assets. Probate can be costly and time-consuming, potentially causing conflict among beneficiaries. Assets held in a trust pass directly to the designated beneficiaries, bypassing the need for probate.

Control Over Asset Distribution

Trust funds allow the grantor to specify when and under what circumstances assets are distributed to beneficiaries. This level of control is particularly useful when there are concerns about a beneficiary's ability to manage money responsibly. The trustee can be instructed to distribute funds based on age, major life events, educational achievements, or other milestones.

Tax Advantages

Certain types of trust funds can provide tax benefits, particularly irrevocable trusts, which remove assets from the grantor's taxable estate. Additionally, charitable trusts provide the grantor with an immediate tax deduction and can potentially reduce estate and capital gains taxes.

Asset Protection

Trust funds can protect assets from creditors and legal judgments. Since assets placed in an irrevocable trust are no longer owned by the grantor, they cannot be accessed by creditors or in a lawsuit.


The probate process is a matter of public record, making the details of the grantor's estate accessible to anyone. Trusts, on the other hand, are private legal arrangements. The transfer of assets to beneficiaries remains confidential unless a dispute requires court intervention.

Management During Incapacity

A trust fund can help ensure proper management of a person's financial affairs in the event they become incapacitated. The trustee can continue to manage the trust and distribute assets according to the grantor's wishes.

Steps to Setting Up a Trust Fund

Establishing a trust fund involves several crucial steps. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a trust:

  • Identify your objectives and determine the type of trust that best meets your needs. Consult with a financial advisor, attorney, or estate planner to ensure you choose the most appropriate trust.
  • Select a trustee. The trustee can be an individual or an organization, such as a bank or a trust company. Choose someone who is responsible and trustworthy, as they will play a critical role in managing your trust and distributing assets.
  • Draft the trust document. Hire an experienced trust attorney to draft the document, which will outline the terms of the trust, including the trustee's duties and the beneficiary designations.
  • Transfer assets to the trust. This step involves re-titling assets, such as real estate or bank accounts, in the name of the trust.
  • Sign and execute the trust agreement. The grantor, the trustee, and the attorney must sign the trust document in the presence of a notary public.
  • Obtain a tax identification number for the trust, if necessary.

Understanding Trust Fund Fees

Establishing and maintaining a trust fund involves fees for financial and legal services. Here are some of the costs you should be aware of:

  • Attorney fees: Drafting a trust can range from several hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the trust's complexity and the attorney's expertise.
  • Trustee fees: Trustees charge for their services, either a flat fee or a percentage of the trust's assets. Fees vary based on the trustee's responsibilities and the trust's complexity.
  • Tax and accounting fees: Trusts may require annual tax filings and financial reporting. Costs depend on the trust's structure and the services provided by the tax professional or accountant.
  • Asset management fees: If the trust holds investments that require professional management, investment professionals will charge an asset management fee, typically based on a percentage of assets.


Trust funds can offer numerous benefits, such as controlling asset distribution, minimizing taxes, protecting assets from creditors, maintaining privacy, and ensuring proper asset management. Determining the right type of trust and properly establishing it are crucial steps in achieving your financial goals. Consult with professionals, such as financial advisors or trust attorneys, to ensure your trust fund is crafted to meet your objectives and the needs of your beneficiaries.

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