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A trustor, also called a "grantor," "settler," or "creator," is the person who creates a trust. This person grants real property, personal property, money, and gifts to the beneficiaries in the trust. He may sometimes be referred to as a "donor," as he is granting something to another party. The names vary according to jurisdiction, but the definition and role is basically the same.
A trust is a legal document in which one person provides assets to the beneficiaries, and directs a trustee to manage and administer the assets until the property is transferred and the trust is no longer in effect. When the trustor and trustee are the same person, it is called a grantor trust. A beneficiary receives the property or income according the terms of the document, which can spread it out over years or given it in a lump sum when certain conditions are met. In some cases, the grantor can also be a beneficiary.
The trustor usually sets the terms of the trust and signs a trust agreement. The agreement details the instructions to the trustee for how to manage the trust. Any agreement that involves land is required to be in writing in order to be enforceable, but others can be oral or even implied. The agreement often states how the principal and income of the trust are to be invested and disbursed to the beneficiaries. The trustee has to adhere to the agreement when administering his duties, or he can be sued by the beneficiaries for breach of duty under trust law.
A trust can be created during the creator's lifetime, which is called a living trust. The primary benefit to establishing a living trust is to avoid the need to go to probate. Another option is to create one as part of a will, which is a testamentary trust. This type can and often does go to probate, because the assets must pass through the estate. The trustor can revoke, change, or cancel a living or testamentary trust, except in the case of an irrevocable living trust.
A grantor often creates a trust to replace a will, but it can be a part of a will as well. A trust attorney can provide people with advice on the best type of trust to create, based on the individual's circumstances, the law that will govern the trust, and the tax system that affects it. Giving gifts up to a certain amount may be a better alternative, depending on the beneficiaries and tax consequences.