A land trust is a type of revocable living trust. Unlike a living trust, which can contain any types of assets, a land trust is for real estate or real estate-related items only.
With a land trust, you are able to obscure your overall net worth. This is because the property contained within a land trust is not listed under your name in public records. In fact, the property is listed in the name of the trust on all public records.
Below, we discuss what (if any) liability a land trust trustee has.
As stated above, a land trust is a type of living trust. As with other types of trusts, a land trust must have a designated trustee.
In a land trust, a trust agreement will act as the vehicle through which you dictate the trust arrangement. For most land trusts, the trustee holds the legal title to a property. However, all rights remain with the beneficiary. (In a land trust, you are typically the beneficiary.) This means the beneficiary retains all rights to the ownership, possession and management of the property. In other words, the beneficiary retains the right to manage, rent or sell any property contained within a land trust.
Finding a trustee for a land trust can be hard. While companies like Royal Legal Solutions offer “nominee trustee” services, finding an individual interested in taking on this task is often difficult.
Before we talk about the role and liability of a trustee, let us review the benefits of a land trust. While there are many benefits to having a land trust, the primary reasons are related to anonymity and control.
In a land trust, the property is listed under the name of the trust. This means your personal identification, including name and address, are not listed in public records. In today’s world, anonymity is a rare and precious protection measure. Why? When your property is not linked to you, it helps to obscure your overall worth. In doing so, it can help reduce potential lawsuits. (After all, if your net worth is unknown, lawyers cannot seek exuberant restitutions.)
Obscuring your net worth can also help with property negotiations. Why? Because when your personal wealth is unknown, the party you negotiate does not realize your full worth. This can reduce the likelihood that they press for ridiculous amounts of money simply because they know you can afford it. (Celebrities tend to purchase properties through land trusts for this reason!)
A land trust gives you full control over the management, rental or sale decisions of your property. You also do not have to go through a probate court before distributing or selling properties under a land trust. Because they are considered personal property, assets in a land trust are exempt from court proceedings that regulate their distribution. This level of control is greatly appreciated by many parties. (In an irrevocable living trust, for example, you can not freely amend the trust or change beneficiaries.)
In a land trust, the trustee is only to act in accordance with directions given from the beneficiary. While the beneficiary has a keen interest in the trust agreement, a trustee should as well. Why? To avoid liability, a trustee will want the trust agreement to specifically exempt them.
In fact, a trustee should be exempt from personal liabilities related to the land trust’s debts and obligations. (Some trust agreements divide incidents of ownership between the trustee and beneficiary.
Make sure you read any trust agreement before signing it to ensure it includes the points each party find relevant.) In addition to this, the trustee may find themselves personally liable, regardless of the trust agreement exemptions, if they have acted negligently. They may also be liable if they acted without the direction of the beneficiary.
Certain states have additional statutes that apply to land trusts. Your trustee should research these laws to ensure their liability is well known prior to signing any agreements.
At Royal Legal Solutions, we understand the nuances of the role of a land trust trustee. We work with you to carefully construct a trust agreement that benefits everyone. As your “nominee trustee,” Royal Legal Solutions files the right paperwork on behalf of your land trust. Our name appears on all public records related to your property to protect your anonymity. After filing the right paperwork, we transfer the trustee title back to you.
With your net worth remaining anonymous, you assume all rights and responsibilities associated with both the trustee and beneficiary role. Think this offer applies only to individuals in a certain state? Not true. Royal Legal Solutions are able to assist with land trusts throughout the United States and Canada. If you would like to schedule a consultation with us, please contact the professionals at Royal Legal Solutions today.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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