Trusts "Definitions" for Estate Planning

Estate planning can get sticky when you begin dealing with the various terms surrounding trusts. Trust definitions can be confusing.

Sometimes, they can mean the same thing, as is the case with "Living Trust," "Revocable Trust" and "Revocable Living Trust." All three terms mean that the person creating the trust was still alive at the time. Such trusts can be altered, amended or completely revoked as long as the maker remains alive. A trust that goes into effect after the demise of the person who made it is termed a "Testamentary Trust."

Whichever term is used, a trust is one of the documents that requires a notary's oversight. Relevant signatures to a trust must be witnessed and given a notary's seal before they are legal.

What term is used to describe the document may simply be the choice of the lawyer who helps prepare the trust. Some prefer the term "Living Trust" because of its simplicity. If the trust deals with life insurance matters, that may also be signified in the title. The "Living" element implies that during the lifetime of the maker it can be changed or revoked.

Most estate planning lawyers choose the term they like and stick with it. For many of them, it is simply a matter of the terms that were used while they were in training. Or it has become the practice of the group with which they are associated.

For the usual "John Doe" planning a trust, it is not so important to know the intricacies of the various terms as to trust the person to whom they have turned over the matter.

Regardless of what your trust is called, it's the content that matters most. Your trust should include the terms and provisions that will safeguard your valuables and make clear provisions for how they are to be administered and disposed of upon your death. It should be carefully considered and amended as changes in your life dictate.