One of the first things to do when learning about any new subject is to understand its jargon. Every topic has its own specialized language, with acronyms and abbreviations that sound like gibberish to the novice, and often unstated assumptions that presume that the reader has an advanced level of understanding. Estate planning is no exception.

Trusts are an especially complicated area of estate planning. A trust essentially divides the legal and management aspects of property from the beneficial enjoyment of that property. However, when it comes to determining a trust's specifics, things can quickly get confusing. Who will be the grantor, the trustee, the income beneficiaries, or the remainder beneficiaries? Will the trust be revocable or irrevocable? Do you need an ILIT, QPRT, GRAT, GRUT, CRAT, or CRUT -- and if you want a CRUT, should it be a NIMCRUT or not?

If you choose to hire a trustworthy professional estate planner, it isn't absolutely necessary that you understand all of the ins and outs of what will often be a voluminous set of legal documents. But you should understand the basic concepts of how your plan will work, and who will need to take action to ensure that your needs and wishes are met.

This series of articles will give you a quick look at certain types of trusts that may be appropriate for you, including revocable (living) trusts, irrevocable trusts, life insurance trusts, personal residence trusts, charitable trusts, and special needs trusts. This series should help you ask informed questions of professionals working with you, and obtain a basic understanding of your estate plan. In reading these articles, keep in mind that laws can vary widely among states; what may generally hold true might not always be the best option where you live.

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