Estate planning: Is a trust beneficial?

Use the tips below to determine whether or not setting up a trust is best for you.

The trustee must be qualified to administer the trust properly. The trustee must be willing to handle the responsibilities of a trustee of which there are many. Being a trustee is a task which should not be taken lightly. A trustee is responsible for a number of obligations including maintaining permanent records, making investment decisions, reading and interpreting the provisions of the trust document, making sure that the annual fiduciary income tax returns are filed in a timely manner and making distributions in accordance with the terms of the trust. The trustee must engage a CPA who is familiar with the IRS trust compliance rules and the state trust accounting rules. This may be a cost that you should consider before you establish a trust.

A trust may be a useful estate-planning tool for your family if you have a significant worth and feel that you need a trust for good reasons such as:

You want to leave your estate to your heirs in a way that is not directly and immediately payable to them upon your death. For example, you may want to stipulate that they receive their inheritance in three parts, or upon certain conditions being met, such as graduating from college;

You want to arrange for the support of you’re surviving spouse, but also want to insure that the principal or remainder of your estate goes to your chosen heirs (e.g., your children from a first marriage) after your spouse dies;

You and your spouse want to maximize your estate-tax exemptions;

You have a disabled relative whom you would like to provide for without disqualifying him or her from Medicaid or other government assistance.

You have a real property in multiple jurisdictions. If you transfer the title from your name to the trust you must have casualty insurance insuring the trust as the owner of the real property.

Among the chief advantages of trusts include:

Placing conditions in the trust on how and when your assets are distributed after you die;

Reduce estate and gift taxes;

Distribute assets to heirs efficiently without the cost, delay and publicity of probate court;

Better protection of your assets from creditors and lawsuits;

Always name successor trustees who are qualified to take over if the prior trustee is unable to carry out the trustee duties for any reason.

Trusts are flexible, varied and complex. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, which you should discuss thoroughly with your estate-planning attorney before setting one up.

One caveat:  Assets you want in a living trust should be retitled in the name of the trust. Anything that is not so titled when you die will have to be subject to probate.

For a trust in which you want to put the majority of your assets — known as a revocable living trust — you also have to have a “pour-over will” to cover any of your holdings that might be outside of your trust if you die unexpectedly. A pour-over will essentially directs that any assets outside of the trust at the time of your death be put into it.

Credit-shelter trust: With a credit-shelter trust (also called a bypass or family trust), you write a will bequeathing an amount to the trust up to but not exceeding the estate-tax exemption. Then if you wish you can pass the rest ofyour estate to your spouse tax-free. You also specify how you want the trust to be used — for example, you may stipulate that income from the credit-shelter trust after you die goes to your spouse and that when he or she dies,the principal will be distributed tax-free among your children.

Since your spouse is also entitled to an estate-tax exemption, the two of you can effectively double that portion of your kids’ inheritance that is shielded from estate taxes.

And there’s an added bonus: Once money is placed in a bypass trust it is forever free of estate tax, even if it grows. So if the trustee invests it wisely,this may add to your children’s inheritance.

Of course, you can pass an amount equal to the estate-tax exemption directly your kids when you die, but the reason for a bypass trust is to protect your spouse financially in the event he or she has need for income from the trust orin the event you think your children will squander their inheritance before the surviving parent dies.


  1. Estate plannings seem like something you want to do right. It is good to know that trusts are really flexible. That is a good thing to know about because my parents are trying to figure out what they want to do with their estate planning.

  2. It really helped when you said that we should discuss the trusts with a lawyer to help us understand the advantages and disadvantages. I guess I would hire one first thing tomorrow because I need to create one as soon as possible. This is a must for me because I just found out that I might have an illness that can make me weaker faster than the normal person. So I need to secure my properties.

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  6. Thank you for the wonderful article

  7. That’s good to know that you have to have a “pour-over will” to cover any holdings that you might have outside of your trust when making a living trust. My husband and I just were married last month so we want to start a trust in case something were to happen to either one of us. We’ll have to find an attorney who can help us make one but also help us learn more about a “pour-over will” so we can figure out what to do with that.

  8. I like your tip on using your spouse as well to get double tax exempt estates. These are the types of things that only good estate planning attorneys know. It is also why my wife and I are looking to hire one here in the coming months.

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