A trust is a legal instrument that gives another person or institution authority to manage money and property for your benefit during your lifetime and, if you choose, after your death. When created properly, a trust can help reduce or eliminate federal and state estate taxes. Trusts can be used to hold a wide variety of assets including cash, bank accounts, investments, real estate, life insurance policies, artwork and valuables. A trust can also save time and money by avoiding probate, which is a lengthy, expensive and public process. If you are considering setting up a trust, you should speak with an estate attorney or a lawyer who practices in this area.
Philosophical work on trust tends to fall under either the general heading of epistemology or, more specifically, on the topic of trust in testimony (see the entry for that topic). Nevertheless, there are a few things we can say for certain about trust that will be relevant to determining when it is warranted.
First, trust is a risky activity for the trustee; they must be willing to accept that by their decision to trust someone or something, they will make themselves vulnerable to betrayal. In some cases, a person can mitigate this risk by monitoring or imposing certain constraints on the actions of the trustee. But this can only go so far.
Moreover, the trustee must be competent and willing to do what they are expected to do in order for this trust to be justified. This can be a difficult standard to meet, given the nature of some trust activities. For example, if you are placing your faith in a medical doctor, you must be confident that this physician is capable of treating your condition. This type of trust is particularly risky because if this physician fails to do their job, you could suffer from serious or even fatal consequences.
There is much debate about the conditions under which trust is justified, but there are some basic considerations that apply to most situations. The most important is that a person must have good reasons for believing what they believe in order to justify trusting as they do. These reasons might be internal or external to the person. They might lie in the intrinsic value of what they are trusting or, more precisely, in the epistemic reliability of what caused them to believe.
While there is a lot of controversy in philosophy about whether or when trust is rational, most philosophers agree that it is often worthwhile. This is largely because it can produce a number of goods, such as social and personal well-being, that are worth having in themselves. However, the value of these goods varies from person to person.