By Randy Hughes, Mr. Land Trust
Has anyone asked you yet, “What is a Trust?” I am asked many times each month what a trust is and why someone should use a trust to hold title to their real estate investments. Oftentimes the person asking me these questions is a real estate investor or an attorney. Most attorneys are not familiar with Land Trusts, also known as title holding trusts, because most law professors do not teach about them in school. The result is that they typically do not recommend them to their clients. Many attorneys opt to suggest the use of an LLC to hold the title.
You May Be in the Same Situation
If I am frequently encountering these questions, you may be too. Your current attorney may ask, “Why are you messing with all that unnecessary Land Trust stuff?” Or you could be interviewing a new attorney to work with, and they want to know why you are interested in trusts.
Perhaps a fellow member of the real estate investment club or association of which you are a member, or a real estate friend of yours asks, “Why bother with Land Trusts?” (By the way, if you are not a member of a real estate investment club, I encourage you to find one that suits your style and join. The benefits to you and your business are numerous.)
Let’s face it, the answers to these questions may not flow off your tongue. Since I’ve had more practice than you responding to these inquiries, I’ll share with you some of the points I make.
You know by now that there are many ways to hold title to real estate, whether it is a personal residence or an investment property. The title can be held in an individual’s name, joint tenancy, corporation, limited liability company, joint venture, partnership, limited partnership, association, or trust.
Each of these forms of holding the title carries benefits, detriments, tax, and asset protection implications. There is not space enough in this issue of my Land Trust University newsletter to compare and contrast all these consequences. We can concentrate on the Land Trust and its many advantages to the everyday real estate investor.
Start with the Basics
Let us start at the beginning. What is a trust? It is merely a few pieces of paper whereby one person or entity (the Trustee) holds the title for someone else (the Beneficiary). The Trust Agreement is a contract between the parties involved and as such, dictates the actions of all parties involved. There are many types of trusts available to use. As members of the Land Trust University, we typically deal with a Grantor Revocable Trust (GRT) to hold title to our real estate investments.
Technically, the IRS says that a GRT is NOT an entity but a “contractual arrangement.” The IRS does not require that a GRT has a tax ID number, and they don’t demand that a tax return be filed on behalf of the trust. All tax results from the property held inside the trust flow through to the Beneficiary who files a return. (See Revenue Ruling 92-105 and IRS Code Section 677.)
When combined with Corporations, LLCs, or other trusts, the Land Trust can be a formidable opponent to those who would like to inflict financial pain on the owner.
Land Trusts were not designed to be asset protection tools on their own. Some practitioners perceive them as great estate planning tools that prevent the Beneficiaries (and Successor Beneficiaries) from experiencing probate.
However, I have found that the mere fact that a real estate investor does not own property in their personal name is a great benefit. And if the investor makes the Beneficiary of the Land Trust an LLC or Corporation, it yields the best of both worlds. Primarily, you receive the privacy of ownership afforded by the Land Trust (there is no “registry” for Land Trusts) and the asset protection benefits of the LLC/Corp as the Beneficiary.
Privacy Makes a Difference
Why is privacy of ownership important? I receive calls every month from people across the nation that think I am the trustee of a trust they are trying to investigate. (They find my phone number when they search the Internet for Land Trusts.) Typically, these inquiries are about a problem the caller is having with a tenant next door or across the street from them. They want to register a complaint or find out who to sue over their dissatisfaction with the adjacent property owner.
If your attorney or your real estate friend have not yet heard a war story from someone who was sued just because their name was on the deed, they will. You can also encourage them to read the testimonials and blog posts on my website. People whose lives were turned upside down because they were the defendant in a lawsuit contact me frequently.
These calls and the challenges people have lived through represent the top reason real estate investors use trusts. It is to stay out of the public purview. Trusts can help avoid frivolous problems. We have a highly litigious society in America today. If you make it easy for someone to sue you, they probably will. If it is difficult to sue you, or they can’t discover who you are, they probably will not . . . they will take someone else to court who is an easy target.
Many advanced Land Trust strategies can be employed in conjunction with other entities that can create dy-no-mite asset protection for the everyday real estate investor.
To learn more visit Randy’s FREE online training at www.landtrustwebinar.com/411 and text the word “reasons” to 206-203-2005 for his free booklet, Reasons to Use a Land Trust. Readers can also reach Randy the old-fashioned way by calling me at 217-355-1281. (He actually answers his own phone, unlike most other businesses in America today!)
I encourage you to learn more by going to my FREE online training at www.landtrustwebinar.com/411 and text the word “reasons” to 206-203-2005 for my free booklet, Reasons to Use a Land Trust. You can also reach me the old-fashioned way by calling me at 217-355-1281. (I actually answer my own phone, unlike most other businesses in America today!)