What is a Settlor?


Share This...


A settlor, also known as a grantor or trustor, is an individual or entity that establishes a trust. The settlor transfers legal ownership of assets to the trust and outlines the terms and conditions under which those assets are managed and distributed. Here are the key components and responsibilities of a settlor:

  • Creation of the Trust: The settlor is responsible for creating the trust, often documented in a written trust agreement or deed.
  • Transferring Assets: The settlor places assets—whether it be real estate, stocks, cash, or other valuables—into the trust. Once transferred, these assets usually become the property of the trust, separate from the settlor’s personal assets.
  • Defining Terms: In the trust document, the settlor sets out the rules under which the assets in the trust will be managed and distributed. This includes naming the beneficiaries (those who will benefit from the trust) and appointing a trustee (or trustees) who will be responsible for managing the trust according to the settlor’s stipulations.
  • Revocable vs. Irrevocable: Trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust can be altered, amended, or revoked by the settlor during their lifetime. In contrast, an irrevocable trust typically cannot be changed or terminated without the permission of the beneficiary once it has been finalized.
  • Purpose: The settlor establishes the trust’s purpose, which can range from ensuring financial stability for a beneficiary, protecting assets from certain creditors, reducing estate tax implications, or donating to charitable causes.

In the context of trust law and estate planning, the role of the settlor is crucial. They initiate the trust, define its purpose, and set its terms, shaping how the assets within the trust are managed and utilized.

Example of a Settlor

Let’s use a fictional example to illustrate the role of a settlor in establishing a trust.


Mrs. Eleanor Smith, a retired school teacher, has accumulated significant savings and assets over her lifetime. She wishes to ensure that her grandson, James, can attend college without financial burden and wants to safeguard a portion of her assets specifically for this purpose. Additionally, she hopes that any remaining funds from this portion be donated to her favorite charity, the “Children’s Education Foundation,” after James completes his education.


Mrs. Smith decides to establish a trust to meet her objectives.

  • Creation of the Trust: Mrs. Smith meets with an attorney specializing in estate planning to draft a trust agreement.
  • Transferring Assets: She decides to place $200,000 in cash, stocks, and bonds into the trust.
  • Defining Terms: In the trust document, Mrs. Smith:
    • Names her grandson, James, as the primary beneficiary.
    • Appoints her trusted niece, Clara, as the trustee. Clara’s responsibility will be to manage the trust assets, ensuring James’s educational expenses are covered.
    • Specifies that once James finishes his education, any remaining funds in the trust will be donated to the “Children’s Education Foundation.”
  • Type of Trust: Mrs. Smith establishes the trust as irrevocable, ensuring that the assets are solely dedicated to James’s education and subsequent charitable donation. This means that once the trust is set up, Mrs. Smith can’t reclaim the assets or change the trust terms.
  • Purpose: The primary purpose of the trust is to finance James’s college education. The secondary purpose is to support the “Children’s Education Foundation.”


Thanks to the trust set up by Mrs. Smith (the settlor), James can attend college without financial worry. The appointed trustee, Clara, oversees the disbursement of funds for his tuition, books, and other related expenses. After James graduates, a remainder of $50,000 is left in the trust. True to the terms set by Mrs. Smith, Clara donates this amount to the “Children’s Education Foundation.”

This example provides a snapshot of the role and significance of a settlor in shaping the purpose and terms of a trust, ensuring the proper utilization of assets for intended beneficiaries and causes.

Other Posts You'll Like...

Want to Pass as Fast as Possible?

(and avoid failing sections?)

Watch one of our free "Study Hacks" trainings for a free walkthrough of the SuperfastCPA study methods that have helped so many candidates pass their sections faster and avoid failing scores...