What You Should Know About Land Trusts

What is a Land Trust?

A land trust is a simple, inexpensive method for handling the ownership of real estate. The recorded deed to the real estate is held by a trustee, but all the rights and conveniences of ownership are exercised by the beneficiary. This method of owning real estate can eliminate many of the difficulties that otherwise may be encountered in acquiring, owning, selling or transferring real estate.

Why Use a Land Trust?


Under a land trust, the identity of the true owner is not made public at the County Recorder of Deeds Office. This is because Southeast Title holds the title as your trustee – meaning that your name never needs to appear on the deed. Accordingly, many people use land trusts as part of a strategy to promote privacy of ownership.


Under a land trust agreement, the party creating the trust can retain sole control over the property during his or her lifetime. The succession in ownership provided for in the trust agreement then becomes effective upon death without the expense of probate court proceeding. This can be especially helpful to those who live out of state but own real estate in this state. They will not have to institute separate probate court proceedings but can have the land trust property administered in their home state.


If the property in trust is owned by more than one individual, the title to the property may become faulty and un-merchantable because of death, legal disability, divorce, judgments and many other types of litigation affecting one of the co-owners. When the property is held in a land trust, a recorded judgment against one of the beneficiaries does not automatically constitute a lien upon the real estate held in trust. Thus, the land trust can be an important part of an individual’s asset protection strategy.


A land trust provides a convenient means of mortgaging and selling a trust property without having to obtain deeds from all of the beneficiaries and their spouses. This is especially helpful in situations where numerous parties have an ownership interest or the involved parties are living in different states.


The disposition of a partial interest in property may be advantageous for estate planning purposes. A land trust simplifies the common problem of disposing of a partial interest in a property since the beneficial interest under a land trust can be transferred by assignment. The assignment of the beneficial interest eliminates the necessity of a deed.

How Does It Work?

A land trust is established through a two-step process. First, the beneficiary or beneficiaries must complete and sign the land trust agreement. Under the agreement, the owner, or beneficiary, names Southeast Title as the organization that will serve as trustee. Second, a deed in trust, transferring the property from the current owner to the trust, must be completed and recorded with the appropriate County Recorder of Deeds Office.

Land Trust Key Facts

  • Any person or entity that is capable of entering into a contract may establish a land trust– an individual, a group of individuals, a partnership, joint venture, corporation, or limited liability company; or a personal trust.
  • Under a land trust agreement, the beneficiary retains complete control of the real estate in the same manner as if the recorded deed were in his or her name. The beneficiary may terminate the trust whenever desired and may add additional property to the trust at any time.
  • The trustee executes deeds and mortgages and deals with the property only when directed in writing by the beneficiary.
  • When title to real estate is held in a land trust, the interest of the beneficiary, under the terms of the trust agreement, is personal property. Since the beneficiary’s interest is personal property, he or she may transfer it by assigning that interest without the formality of executing and acknowledging a deed.

The beneficiary of a land trust changes his or her interest in the property from real estate (title to property) to personal property (ownership of the beneficial interest). Even though the beneficiary retains complete management and control over the property itself, he or she is not burdened with many of the legal characteristics of real estate when dealing with the property. Since the beneficial interest is considered to be personal property, it is treated in much the same manner as a car, bank account, or other tangible property. Consequently, the beneficial interest can be sold, pledged or assigned in a simpler fashion than a conveyance of realty.

Why Select Southeast Title?

Our dedicated trust professionals are committed to developing long-standing relationships with our customers to ensure sound planning. We want to help you protect your property and its future distribution to your heirs in a responsible, organized and uncomplicated manner.