What is a Trust?

A trust is a separate legal entity. Think of a trust as a box. Any assets you put in the box bypass probate upon your death and are distributed directly to your beneficiaries. In other words, a trust is essentially a beneficiary form. Similar to the beneficiary form you would fill out for your IRA/401k or life insurance policy. In order for the terms of a trust to apply to a particular asset, that assets has to be titled to the trust. The way to do this depends on the assets. If the asset is real estate, a deed needs to be recorded with the local recorder's office to transfer title to the trust. If the trust is an account at a bank or other financial institution, you simply need to tell that institution that you have a trust and you want your account titled to it. The institution will then ask you for a copy of the trust and will probably have some forms for you to sign. Finally, for assets such as retirement plans (401k, IRA, Roth IRA) and life insurance, you simply need to fill out a beneficiary form and name the trust either as your primary or contingent beneficiary.