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In Estate Planning, What's a Settlor, Grantor or Trustor?

In estate planning, when a person signs a Living Trust or a Revocable Trust (they're the same thing), they are identified using one of several different terms. These include "Settlor", "Grantor", or "Trustor." In Trust lingo, they all mean the same thing and they refer to the person establishing the Trust. 

So why does one person's Trust use one term and another person's uses a different term? There could be several reasons but one main reason is that it is a matter of preference of the drafting estate planning attorney. Another factor could be the software or estate planning forms an attorney uses in preparing his or her estate documents.

When it comes to these terms, there are a few important pointers to remember. First, at the beginning of the Trust, the instrument should identify the person who is setting up and signing the Trust. This person should then be identified as the Settlor, Grantor or Trustor, whichever term is being used. Then, that term should be used consistently throughout the Trust. Even though these terms mean the same thing, it is not good practice to intertwine their use in the same document. In other words, you would not want to refer to the person as "Settlor" in one paragraph and then switch to "Grantor" in another. I've seen this done when people have tried to prepare their own documents and it causes nothing but confusion.

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Attorney Michael Lins
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