A trust can be a useful estate planning tool. If you have a net worth of at least $100,000 and have a substantial amount of real estate, or have very specific instructions on how and when you want your estate to be distributed among your family after you die, then a trust could be for you.

Even if you have modest assets, trusts can be an important tool. First and foremost, trusts avoid probate. If you own a family business, the trustee will be able to run it without going to court to get approval for every move. If you own out-of-state real estate, a trust will help your heirs avoid going through probate in multiple states. And the terms of a trust can often be kept substantially secret from prying neighbors as well as disappointed relatives.