There are all kinds of trusts. Trust planning can get extremely complicated and expensive if you have a lot of money and are trying to avoid estate taxes. Since most of us no longer have that problem (2021 thresholds for federal estate taxes are $11.7 million for individuals and $23.4 million for couples), the main goal of most simple trusts is to avoid probate. You set up your trust, then put some assets into the trust or list the trust as a beneficiary, after you die, the successor trustee can take over and manage those assets. However, if you do not take the step of putting your assets into the name of the trust, you will not get the benefit of the trust and will still have to go through probate. Real property needs to have title transferred to the trustees and then recorded with the county recorder or other relevant government entity. There are also some assets, such as retirement accounts, that can be more complicated in designating beneficiaries, depending on your situation.
Should you do a trust? That depends on what assets you have and your goals. If you are set on avoiding probate, it’s usually a good idea. If it sounds too intimidating, you can always start with a simple will and do a trust down the road. I always tell people it’s better to have something in place than to keep putting off a trust because it seems too hard.