Estate planning is a meticulous process involving various legal aspects, one of whom is the settlor. 

The settlor plays a pivotal role in establishing a trust and structuring their estate by their wishes and the applicable laws. 

This comprehensive blog will delve into the settlor’s role in wills and trusts.

What Is Settlor?

A settlor is the individual who creates a trust or establishes a will. 

This legal entity transfers assets, often called the trust corpus, into the trust or defines the terms of their will. 

The settlor’s primary responsibility is to initiate the process and provide clear instructions for the distribution of their assets upon their passing.

Powers And Control

Settlors retain significant control over their assets during their lifetime, especially in revocable trusts

They have the authority to modify, amend, or revoke the trust entirely as long as they are mentally competent. 

This flexibility allows settlors to adapt their estate plans to changing circumstances.

Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, may limit the settlor’s ability to make changes once the trust is established. 

However, they still have control in the initial phase when defining the trust terms and beneficiaries.

The settlor’s control extends beyond asset distribution. 

They can impose specific conditions, such as requiring beneficiaries to meet certain criteria or reach a certain age before receiving their inheritance. 

This control ensures that the settlor’s intentions are carried out precisely.

Legal Formalities

Creating a trust or drafting a will involves adhering to specific legal formalities and requirements.

This will be what the settlor must follow meticulously. 

Failure to do so can result in the invalidation of the trust or will. 

Settlors need to seek legal counsel.

This ensures compliance with relevant laws and regulations in their jurisdiction.

Example 1: Sarah’s Testamentary Will

Background Scenario:

Sarah is a 65-year-old retired teacher with significant assets, including a paid-off house, savings accounts, and a valuable art collection.

She wants to ensure that her assets are distributed according to her wishes after passing.

Will Scenario:

Sarah decides to create a testamentary will to detail how her assets should be distributed upon her death. In her will, she names her two adult children, Emily and David, as the primary beneficiaries of her estate. She specifies that her house should be sold and the proceeds divided between her children. Additionally, she designates a trusted friend, Lisa, as the executor of her estate, responsible for managing the process and ensuring her wishes are carried out.

In this example, Sarah is the settlor of the will. She is the person who has established the legal document (the will) to outline how her assets will be distributed after her death, and she has designated beneficiaries and an executor to carry out her wishes.

Example 2: James’s Living Trust

Background Scenario:

James is a wealthy entrepreneur in his early 50s.

He has a substantial business empire, investments, and several real estate properties.

Concerned about the complexity of his estate, he wants to ensure a smooth transition of his assets to his heirs while minimizing estate taxes.

Living Trust Scenario:

James decides to create a revocable living trust as part of his estate planning. In this living trust, he names himself as the initial trustee, maintaining control over his assets during his lifetime. He also designates his three adult children, Michael, Laura, and Daniel, as the successor trustees. James specifies that upon his death or incapacitation, his assets will be distributed equally among his children, and the trust will become irrevocable.

In this example, James is the settlor of the living trust. He establishes the trust during his lifetime, transferring his assets into the trust’s ownership. As the initial trustee, he manages the assets within the trust, and he designates his children as successor trustees to ensure a seamless transition of his estate according to his wishes.

These examples illustrate how individuals like Sarah and James act as settlors in wills and trusts.

This is to dictate the distribution of their assets and the management of their estate after their passing.