DEFINITION of Trust Property
Trust property refers to assets that have been placed into a fiduciary relationship between a trustor and trustee for a designated beneficiary. Trust property may include any type of asset such as cash, securities, real estate or life insurance policies.
Trust property is also referred to as "trust assets" or "trust corpus".
BREAKING DOWN Trust Property
Trust property is typically tied into an estate planning strategy used to facilitate the transfer of assets and to reduce tax liability. Some trusts can also protect assets in the event of a bankruptcy or lawsuit.
The trustee is required to manage the trust property in accordance with the trustor's wishes and in the beneficiary's best interests. A trustee can be an individual or a financial institution such as a bank. A trustor sometimes called a "settlor" or "grantor" can also serve as a trustee managing assets for the benefit of another individual such as a son or daughter.
Regardless of the role a trustee plays, the individual or organization must abide by specific rules and laws that govern the functioning of whichever type of trust is established.
Types of Trusts
There are several different types of trusts individuals can establish. But they typically fall under two categories which are revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. In a revocable arrangement, the trustor maintains legal ownership and control of trust assets. For this reason, the trustor would be responsible for paying taxes on the income those assets generate and the trust may also be subject to estate taxes should its value breach the tax exempt threshold at the time of the grantor's death.
With an irrevocable trust, the trustor passes legal ownership of the trust assets to a trustee. However, this means those assets leave a person's property effectively lowering the taxable portion of an individual's estate. The trustor also relinquishes certain rights to mend the trust agreement. For example, a trustor usually can't change beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust after they have been established. This is not the case with a revocable trust.
Trusts can be created during an individual's lifetime or they can be established following the grantor's death. This situation applies to Payable on Death (POD) trusts, which transfer assets to a beneficiary following the death of the trustor. Generally speaking, this type of trust and similar ones are called testamentary trusts because property is actually transferred following the trustor's death. Assets in these trusts flow directly to the intended beneficiaries following the trustor's death, which means they avoid the often long and expensive process of probate. These trusts can also be outlined in a person's will.
Assets within living trusts, however, can be transferred during the trustor's lifetime. For example, several individuals open accounts in trust with banks for the benefit of their children or to help fund their college expenses. A trustee carefully manages the assets held in the account to achieve this goal, but the children don't have complete access to the funds or the freedom to spend income from the fund as they please. An example of this type of arrangement is a unified gift to minors act (UGMA) account. In some cases, beneficiaries such as children would have access to the trust's assets and the income they generate only after reaching a certain age.