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Wills & Estate Planning

What Are Trusts?

You may need to establish one or more trusts to satisfy your estate planning wishes. Trusts can be established during your lifetime (these are called inter vivos trusts, sometimes referred to as living trusts), or upon your death in your will (these are called testamentary trusts). Basically, a trust is just an agreement where one person, the trustee, agrees to hold property for the benefit of another, the beneficiary. The person who provides the property to be held is referred to by many names, such as the grantor, donor, settlor or the trustor. Trusts can either be revocable, meaning the grantor reserves the right to terminate the trust during his/her lifetime, or irrevocable, wherein the grantor gives up all rights to the property transferred to the trust.

Trusts Are Especially Important for Large Estates Subject to Estate Taxes

Trusts are especially important for those individuals with large estates subject to estate taxes, currently those exceeding $5,340,000.00 for individuals or $10,680,000 for married couples. Proper estate planning, including establishing trusts, may help to reduce the tax burden your estate (and your family) after your death.

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Types of Trusts You May Consider Establishing
  • Revocable Trusts: As noted above, this classification of trust is often referred to as a living trust. It is a trust created by a grantor for which the grantor reserves the right to amend, revoke, or terminate the trust during their lifetime. One major reason people have for choosing to establish a revocable trust is to try and avoid probate and provide continuity for managing their assets upon either their death or incapacity. This is because they place all of their assets that would otherwise be subject to probate in the name of the trust and designate a trustee, and successor trustee, to manage those assets for the beneficiaries without interruption in the case of the death of the grantor. This is unlike what happens in the probate process when it may take weeks or even months from the beneficiaries to access the estate assets.
  • Special Needs Trust: A special needs trust is generally established when a beneficiary of a trust is receiving government benefits and an outright distribution of assets would eliminate the individual’s eligibility for such benefits.
  • Spendthrift Trust: Although referred to as an individual trust, this type of trust is often found as a provision within a revocable, irrevocable or other type of trust. This provision generally includes language to allow the trustee very broad authority to avoid making a distribution to a beneficiary if that distribution would simply go to the beneficiary’s creditors or if, in the trustee’s opinion, it would be wasted by the beneficiary. The spendthrift trust allows the grantor to provide for the beneficiary while also protecting the assets of the trust.
  • Testamentary Trusts: This type of trust is created under your Will. During your lifetime, it may be changed or terminated by executing a new will. It does not actually come into existence un til your death, at which time it reverts to an irrevocable trust. This type of trust is often established by parents of minor children to provide them with continuous support after the parent’s death but also prevent the disbursements of large amounts of money, such as life insurance proceeds, that would automatically be given to the child upon their reaching the age of majority, 18 years old. A young person of this age generally does not have the financial maturity to cope with sudden riches. Instead, the trust is set up to provide the young person with financial support until the principal is finally disbursed to them at an age the grantor feels they should have reached financial maturity. That may be at 25 years of age, 30 or after the beneficiary reaches some other age or passes some lifetime milestone, such as graduating from college, getting married or having a child. The main idea is the grantor determines during their lifetime how the money in trust should be distributed after their death.

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Other Types of Trusts

Of course, there are many other types of trusts not noted above.  Among these are:

  • Asset Protection Trusts
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Credit Shelter/Family Trusts
  • Crummey Trusts
  • Generation Skipping Trusts
  • Grantor Trusts
  • Life Insurance Trusts
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRT)
  • Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP)Trusts

You should consult with an estate planning attorney at Combs Greene if you would like more information on these or any of the other trusts listed above.

Contact us today for a consultation to see how we can help give you peace of mind for the future.

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