In 15 Seconds, What is a Trust?

A trust is not a separate entity.  Rather, it is a relationship between the trustee and the beneficiaries relative to the property in the trust.  The trustee holds legal title to the trust property for the beneficial interests of the trust beneficiaries.  For most trusts based on a written trust document, this relationship is spelled-out within the trust provisions, affected also by the applicable state law on trusts.

When a trust is a party in litigation, it is the trustee as legal owner of the trust property who is the party, not the trust as an entity.

What is considered the location (or legal situs) of a trust, generally speaking, is the location where the trustee is domiciled, or in some cases where the trust has the greatest level of contacts (e.g., where the trust property is located, where the beneficiaries live, where the creator (called the settlor) of the trust lives, etc.),

This situs is important in determining the jurisdiction and venue (where the court proceeding occurs) when the trust (vis-à-vis the trustee) is a party in a lawsuit.

To help illustrate that a trust is not an entity, the following signature line for a trust is in the trustee’s name, not the trust’s name.  It is, therefore, not an entity signature:

John Doe, as Trustee for the
Jane Doe Irrevocable Trust u/a/d
August 3, 2012

By contrast, and as an example, an entity signature is used for a corporation:

Smith Investments, Inc.

By:  ______________________________
Name:   William Doe
Its:  Vice-President

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