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When you die, the trustee of your trust must look to the trust document for guidance on distributing trust assets.
Depending on the kind of trust you've set up, your assets may or may not have to go through probate.
Stockholders in the company become unit holders a/k/a beneficiaries of the trust.
The trust units are not tradable but shares of stock in a company that has dissolved are typically are no longer tradable either.
The assets of a living trust normally do not have to go through probate, but the assets of a trust created by your will always do.
If the trust document specifies that its assets are to be distributed upon your death, your trustee must methodically liquidate trust assets – she must terminate the trust by paying off all of its creditors and distributing any remaining assets to its beneficiaries.
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For companies with certain types of illiquid but valuable intellectual property, the liquidating trust’s simplicity and lower cost can make it superior to other alternatives.
For example, for a small biotech with drug development programs out licensed to third parties, the liquidating trust can be a cost effective way to collect milestones and royalties for a period of time while open issues are resolved and a transaction can be closed to monetize the licensor interest.
In the context of a managed liquidation it can be particularly effective as the final stage of a well planned wind down process.
Alternatively, the liquidating trust can be a backstop for a complete and relatively quick transfer of liquidation responsibilities to a third party trustee when a management team finds itself unable or unwilling to complete the liquidation effectively.