Define: Trustor

Quick Summary of Trustor

The trustor, also known as a settlor, is an individual who establishes a trust by transferring their assets or property to a trustee. The trustee then manages and utilises these assets for the benefit of a beneficiary. It can be compared to entrusting your toys to a babysitter to look after them in your absence.

What is the dictionary definition of Trustor?
Dictionary Definition of Trustor

The trustor, also referred to as the settlor or grantor, is the individual responsible for establishing a trust. In this case, John serves as an example of a trustor as he creates a trust and transfers his assets into it. As the trustor, John has the authority to determine the assets included in the trust, as well as the terms and conditions governing its distribution.

Full Definition Of Trustor

A trustor, also known as a settlor or grantor, is a key figure in the creation and operation of a trust. This individual initiates the establishment of a trust by transferring assets to a trustee, who then manages these assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Understanding the legal responsibilities, rights, and implications of being a trustor is essential for anyone considering creating a trust. This overview aims to provide a comprehensive examination of the role of the trustor within the framework of British law.

Definition and Role of a Trustor


A trustor is the person who creates a trust by transferring legal ownership of assets to a trustee, who holds and manages the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. The trustor outlines the terms and conditions of the trust in a legal document known as the trust deed or trust instrument.

Role and Responsibilities

The trustor’s primary role is to establish the trust, transfer assets into it, and set out the terms under which the trust operates. The trustor must clearly define the purpose of the trust, the identity of the beneficiaries, the duties of the trustee, and the conditions under which the trust can be modified or terminated.

Types of Trusts and Their Implications for the Trustor

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts

  • Revocable Trusts: The trustor retains the right to alter or revoke the trust during their lifetime. This type of trust provides flexibility but offers less protection against creditors and may have tax implications.
  • Irrevocable Trusts: Once established, the trustor cannot modify or revoke the trust. This type offers greater asset protection and potential tax benefits but limits the trustor’s control over the assets.

Living Trusts vs. Testamentary Trusts

  • Living Trusts (Inter Vivos Trusts): Created during the trustor’s lifetime and can be either revocable or irrevocable. These trusts help in managing assets during the trustor’s life and can facilitate the transfer of assets upon death without probate.
  • Testamentary Trusts: are established through a will and only come into effect upon the trustor’s death. These are irrevocable and are used primarily for managing and distributing the trustor’s estate according to their wishes.

Legal Requirements for Establishing a Trust

Capacity and Intention

The trustor must have the legal capacity to create a trust, meaning they must be of sound mind and of legal age. Additionally, the trustor must clearly intend to create a trust and transfer assets to a trustee.

Transfer of Assets

For a trust to be valid, the trustor must transfer legal ownership of the assets to the trustee. This transfer must comply with the legal requirements applicable to the type of asset being transferred.

Trust Deed

The trust deed is the foundational document of the trust. It must outline:

  • The identity of the trustor, trustee, and beneficiaries.
  • The assets being placed into the trust.
  • The terms and conditions governing the trust, including the powers and duties of the trustee and the rights of the beneficiaries,.

Rights and Powers of the Trustee

Right to Amend or Revoke (Revocable Trusts)

In revocable trusts, the trustor retains the right to amend or revoke the trust. This includes the ability to alter the terms of the trust, change beneficiaries, or appoint a new trustee.

Right to Receive Information

The trustor has the right to receive information about the trust’s administration and the trustee’s management of the trust’s assets, ensuring transparency and accountability.

Retained Powers (If Specified)

In some trusts, the trustor may retain specific powers, such as the power to direct investments or to appoint or remove trustees. These retained powers must be clearly specified in the trust deed.

Duties and Obligations of the Trustee

Duty to Properly Establish the Trust

The trustor must ensure that the trust is properly established, including the valid transfer of assets and compliance with all legal formalities.

Duty to Act in Good Faith

The trustor must act in good faith, ensuring that the creation and operation of the trust are in the best interests of the beneficiaries and comply with the terms of the trust deed.

Tax Obligations

The trustor must comply with all relevant tax obligations, including any applicable taxes on the transfer of assets to the trust and ongoing tax responsibilities related to the trust’s income and assets.

Legal Challenges and Disputes

Contesting the Trust

Trusts can be contested on various grounds, including allegations of undue influence, lack of capacity, or improper execution of the trust deed. The trustor may need to defend the trust’s validity in such cases.

Disputes with Trustees or Beneficiaries

Disputes may arise between the trustor and the trustee or beneficiaries. These disputes often concern the management of trust assets, interpretation of the trust deed, or the fulfilment of the trustor’s intentions.

Legal Remedies

The trustor may seek legal remedies, including mediation, arbitration, or court proceedings, to resolve disputes and ensure the proper administration of the trust.

Taxation of Trusts

Income Tax

Trusts are subject to income tax on the income generated by the trust assets. The rate and treatment of income tax depend on the type of trust and the residency status of the trustor, trustees, and beneficiaries.

Inheritance Tax

Trusts can have significant inheritance tax implications. Transfers into certain types of trusts may be subject to inheritance tax at the time of the transfer, while others may be exempt or subject to different rules.

Capital Gains Tax

The transfer of assets into a trust may trigger capital gains tax if the assets have appreciated in value. The trustor must consider the potential capital gains tax liability when establishing a trust.

Trustor’s Death and Its Implications

Revocable Trusts

Upon the trustor’s death, a revocable trust typically becomes irrevocable. The trustee takes full control of the trust assets, and the trust is administered according to the terms set out by the trustor.

Testamentary Trusts

These trusts come into effect upon the trustor’s death, as specified in their will. The terms of the testamentary trust are carried out by the trustee, ensuring the distribution of the estate according to the trustor’s wishes.

Estate Administration

The administration of the trustor’s estate may involve the execution of both trust and non-trust assets. Executors and trustees must work together to ensure a smooth transition and fulfilment of the trustor’s intentions.

Ethical Considerations and Best Practices

Transparency and Communication

The trustor should maintain transparency and open communication with trustees and beneficiaries to prevent misunderstandings and disputes.

Professional Advice

It is advisable for the trustor to seek professional legal and financial advice when establishing a trust to ensure compliance with legal requirements and to optimise the trust’s structure for tax and estate planning purposes.

Regular Reviews

The trustor should regularly review the trust’s terms and the performance of the trustee to ensure that the trust continues to meet its objectives and adapts to any changes in circumstances or law.

Case Studies and Examples

Case Study: Family Trust

A family trust is established by a trustor to manage and protect family assets for future generations. The trust deed outlines provisions for education, healthcare, and the general welfare of the beneficiaries. The trustor retains the power to make amendments and oversee significant decisions, ensuring the trust aligns with the family’s evolving needs.

Case Study: Charitable Trust

A trustor creates a charitable trust to support a specific cause. The trust deed specifies the charitable purposes, the trustee’s responsibilities, and the methods of distributing funds. The trustor’s involvement ensures that the trust’s activities remain aligned with their philanthropic goals.

Case Study: Business Trust

A trustor transfers business assets into a trust to ensure continuity and professional management. The trust deed includes provisions for the management and succession of the business, protecting it from potential disputes and ensuring its long-term success.


Understanding the legal role of a trustor is crucial for anyone considering establishing a trust. The trustor’s responsibilities include properly creating and funding the trust, complying with legal and tax obligations, and ensuring the trust’s terms are clearly defined and followed. By understanding these aspects and seeking professional advice, a trustor can effectively manage and protect assets for the benefit of future generations or specific purposes. This comprehensive overview aims to provide a solid foundation for understanding the complex legal landscape surrounding the role of the trustor in British law.

Trustor FAQ'S

A trustor is an individual who creates a trust by transferring their assets to a trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries.

The trustor is responsible for creating the trust, defining its terms, and transferring assets into the trust. They may also have the power to amend or revoke the trust during their lifetime.

Yes, a trustor can also serve as the trustee or beneficiary of the trust. However, it is important to ensure that the trust is structured in a way that complies with legal requirements and avoids conflicts of interest.

In most cases, a trustor has the power to change the beneficiaries of a trust during their lifetime. However, this power may be limited by the terms of the trust or by applicable state laws.

Depending on the terms of the trust and applicable state laws, a trustor may have the power to remove a trustee and appoint a new one. However, it is advisable to consult with an attorney to ensure proper procedures are followed.

In many cases, a trustor has the power to revoke a trust during their lifetime. However, this power may be limited by the terms of the trust or by applicable state laws. It is important to consult with an attorney to understand the specific requirements for revoking a trust.

Generally, a trustor is not personally liable for the actions of a trustee. However, if the trustor is also serving as the trustee and engages in wrongful conduct, they may be held personally liable.

Yes, a trustor can create multiple trusts, each with its own set of beneficiaries and terms. This can be useful for estate planning purposes or to address specific needs or goals.

In most cases, a trustor can transfer a wide range of assets into a trust, including real estate, investments, bank accounts, and personal property. However, certain assets may have specific legal requirements or restrictions on transfer.

No, once a trustor passes away, their ability to change the terms of the trust ceases. The trust will be administered according to the terms set forth by the trustor during their lifetime.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th June 2024.

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