Basic Trust Terminology

A will is not the only legal document that can dispose of your property after you die. By using a revocable living trust, you can retain control of your property during your lifetime, determine who will get your property after your die, and avoid the costs and delays of probate.

Basic Trust Terms

To better understand trusts, there are a few terms we should define:

Beneficiaries

The trustee manages the trust property for the benefit of the beneficiaries. In a living trust, the settlor generally names himself as the sole beneficiary of the trust during his lifetime. The settlor will also name those who are to take the property after the death of the settlor. These people are the “remainder” beneficiaries.

Corpus

The property placed in trust is called the trust corpus, trust estate, trust property, or sometimes simply the res which in Latin means “thing”.

Devise

A gift of real estate left at death. Also a verb meaning to give at death.

Executor

The person named in a will, and appointed by the probate court after the will-maker’s death, to wind up the affairs of a deceased person. In some states, executors are called “personal representatives.” (More about executors.)
Executrix: An old-fashioned term for a female executor. Most wills these days use “executor,” whether the person is a man or woman.

Grantor

Someone who creates a trust also known as the settlor. The person who owns the property and establishes the trust is called the settlor (sometimes also called the grantor or the trustor).

Heir

Someone who inherits property under state law if there’s no valid will.

Per Capita

A way of dividing property among the descendants of a deceased heir.

Per Stirpes

A term that means “right of representation.”

Revocable Trust

A trust that the settlor can revoke at any time during his lifetime.

Testatrix

A 19th century old english term for a female writer of the will.

Trustee

The person to whom the trust property is transferred is called the trustee. The trustee manages the property according to the terms of the trust document the settlor has established. With a living trust, the settlor (the owner of the property) normally names himself as the trustee.

However, because the trust will continue (at least for a short while) after the settlor’s death, a successor trustee should also be named. This is the person who will take charge of the trust property after the settlor’s death and make sure that it is properly distributed to the beneficiaries named in the trust document. Sometimes, particularly when there are minor beneficiaries, the trust may continue for years after the settlor’s death.

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