April 30, 2024

Are Trusts Only For the Wealthy?

Protect your assets and loved ones with a will. Get the crucial steps to draft a bulletproof will.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal framework that allows a person (the grantor) to transfer assets, such as cash, real estate, and personal property, to another person (the trustee). The trustee plays a crucial role in managing these assets per the grantor's wishes. Developing a trust makes sense for a wide variety of reasons. Here are some examples:

Protects assets from probate and helps minimize estate taxes

Developing a trust can also be a strategic move to protect all the deceased's assets from the probate process, a lengthy, costly, and public legal ordeal when there is no trust or will. With a trust, you can maintain your privacy, take control of your assets, and avoid estate attorney fees.

Protects assets from lawsuits

Assets are vulnerable if you don't have a way to protect them. They could be disturbed by creditors, divorce proceedings, tax liability and lawsuits. A trust protects your assets from legal judgments so you can pass the assets to your beneficiaries undisturbed.

Protects assets from negative beneficiary issues

Let's say you have an irresponsible or incapable beneficiary, such as a shopaholic or a drug-addict in your family. You don't want to see the assets intended to benefit your children wasted away irresponsibly. A trust protects your assets because the beneficiaries don't own the trust.

Use a will to protect from probate

What is a Revocable and Irrevocable Trust?

There are two fundamental types of trust structures: revocable and irrevocable. An example of a specific type of trust is the charitable remainder trust, which serves the dual purpose of providing income to beneficiaries for a set period and then transferring the remainder to charity.

Revocable Trust

A revocable trust, also known as a revocable living trust, enables the grantor to manage their assets while they're still alive. Unlike an irrevocable trust set in stone, the grantor can change or cancel a revocable trust.

Establishing a revocable trust involves several key steps. These include designating beneficiaries who will receive personal assets, appointing a trustee who will manage remaining assets in the trust per the grantor's instructions, providing clear instructions for the distribution of assets to the trustee, and ensuring that beneficiaries benefit from the trust assets based on the grantor's wishes.

A revocable trust allows a trustee to manage assets on behalf of the grantor when the grantor cannot, ensuring the grantor's wishes are followed. Additionally, a revocable trust can help avoid probate.

Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust differs from a revocable trust because it permanently transfers control and ownership of the trust to the beneficiaries. An irrevocable trust is either living or testamentary. A living trust is established and managed during the grantor’s lifetime, while a testamentary trust is financed based on the grantor’s will after they die. Changes or cancellations to the trust require action on the will before the grantor dies.

After the beneficiaries receive ownership, they will get their inheritance as intended. An irrevocable trust offers permanent protection to protect assets from potential threats, such as creditors, legal actions, and significantly, estate taxes, making it a strategic tool to reduce tax obligations by potentially removing assets from the trustee's taxable estate. This makes it more secure than a revocable trust.

When setting up an irrevocable trust, your choice of trustee is a crucial decision you should not take lightly, and equally important is appointing a successor trustee to ensure the trust's continuity if the original trustee can no longer serve. This choice ensures that the grantor’s objectives align with the trust agreement intended distribution of assets. Furthermore, a comprehensive understanding of the tax implications of an irrevocable trust empowers you to make informed decisions that can impact inheritance taxes, income taxes, and even eligibility for government benefits.

Establishing an irrevocable trust can control your financial future, safeguard your assets, and give your beneficiaries a lasting legacy. Understanding the key features and considerations of this kind of trust is crucial to making informed estate planning, investment management and wealth management decisions.

Estate planning is accessible to everyone

Estate Planning: Trusts Are Not Only for the Wealthy

When people say a trust is only for a wealthy person, that’s a myth. Trusts are not just for the rich.

What causes this myth? Many associate a trust with a person who has millions or billions of dollars and lots of expensive material possessions, properties, and land. This myth overlooks the benefit trusts can give individuals with modest assets.

It’s important to remember that a trust is designed to distribute assets without the need for probate court. This means that it can be helpful for a wide range of incomes and assets. With trusts, individuals, regardless of their financial status, can avoid the delays that are typically associated with probate court and ensure a smooth transfer of assets to their beneficiaries. Trusts can also be particularly beneficial for managing life insurance proceeds to decrease taxes and provide liquidity to heirs, which is crucial when the individual's net worth is significantly tied up in a business.

It’s also important to keep in mind that trust in financial planning is not one-size-fits-all. Various types of trusts, such as revocable and irrevocable, are available to suit different estate planning needs and goals, offering flexibility and customization options for individuals with varying financial situations. A financial advisor is trained to help individuals put together the best kind of trust for their particular situation so that assets are safeguarded, taxes are minimized and wealth is transferred to beneficiaries as seamlessly as possible. Trusts can also be structured to benefit a surviving spouse, ensuring a seamless transfer of assets and potentially offering estate tax benefits.

You’ll need to consider several factors when deciding whether to establish a trust as part of your estate plan. These factors include your age, net worth, family situation, and specific goals for asset distribution. Considering your taxable and federal estate tax exemption is crucial in determining the advisability of a trust, especially in relation to estate tax considerations. While a trust can offer benefits like tax advantages and streamlined asset distribution, it also requires active management and may involve higher initial costs than wills. It's essential to consult an estate planning attorney to navigate the complexities of setting up a trust and to seek legal or tax advice to ensure that your trust strategy aligns with your individual circumstances. Remember, investment, insurance, and annuity products related to trusts are not insured by any federal government agency, underscoring the importance of professional guidance.

No, a trust is not just for the wealthy. It’s a viable option for anyone who wants to reduce taxes and probate expenses while gaining more control over their assets. However, creating a trust for other assets can be complex and requires professional legal and financial assistance. Therefore, it is crucial to consult experts in the field, such as financial advisors, to navigate the world of trusts.

A trust offers asset protection, privacy, and efficient asset distribution while avoiding probate. The misconception that trusts are only for the wealthy should be dispelled, and individuals should consider the flexibility and benefits of a trust when deciding on estate planning options. Ultimately, a trust can be tailored to individual needs and goals, making it a valuable tool for anyone looking to protect and distribute their assets.

For more information about protecting your legacy with a trust, contact your local estate planning attorney at Trustworks.com.

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