MSN Money’s recent article entitled “What is a trust?” explains that many people create trusts to minimize issues and costs for their families or to create a legacy of charitable giving. SO what exactly is a trust? Trusts can be used in conjunction with a last will to instruct where your assets should go after you die. However, trusts offer several great estate planning benefits that you don’t get in a last will, like a relatively speedy conclusion to settling your estate.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can create a trust to minimize taxes, protect assets and spare your family from going through the lengthy probate process to divide up your assets after you pass away. A trust can also let you control to whom your assets will be disbursed, as well as how the money will be paid out. That’s a major point if the beneficiary is a child or a family member who doesn’t have the ability to handle money wisely. You can name a trustee to execute your wishes stated in the trust document. When you draft a trust, you can:
- Say where your assets go and when your beneficiaries have access to them
- Save your beneficiaries from paying estate taxes and court fees
- Shield your assets from your beneficiaries’ creditors or from loss through divorce settlements
- Instruct where your remaining assets should go if a beneficiary dies, which can be helpful in a family that includes second marriages and stepchildren; and
- Avoid a long probate court process.
One of the most common trusts is called a living or revocable trust, which lets you put assets in a trust while you’re alive. The control of the trust is transferred after you die to beneficiaries that you named. You might want to ask an experienced estate planning attorney about creating a living trust for several reasons, such as:
- If you’d like someone else to take on the management responsibilities for some or all of your property
- If you have a business and want to be certain that it operates smoothly with no interruption of income flow, if you die or become disabled
- If you want to shield assets from the incompetency or incapacity of yourself or your beneficiaries; or
- If you want to decrease the chances that your will may be contested.
A living trust can be a smart move for those with even relatively modest estates. The downside is that while a revocable trust will usually keep your assets out of probate if you were to die, there still will be estate taxes if you hit the threshold.
By contrast, an irrevocable trust can’t be changed once it’s been created. You also relinquish control of the assets you put into the trust. However, an irrevocable trust has a key advantage in that it can protect beneficiaries from probate and estate taxes.
In addition, there are many types of specialty trusts you can create. Each is structured to accomplish different goals. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about these.
Reference: MSN Money (July 9, 2021) “What is a trust?”