So, what is an Estate Plan anyway? (Part 2)

In my approach to estate planning, a Trust is the foundation of any good plan. A Trust is a versatile estate planning tool which allows you to (1) avoid estate taxes, (2) immediately transfer assets to your loved ones and (3) avoids the costs, delays and stress of Probate Court.

A good trust allows temendous flexibility with avoiding, not evading, taxes. (Remember, avoiding taxes is legal but evading taxes is illegal.) The owners of the assets still have full control over the asset until a specific event. And a Living Trust allows new heirs or new assets to be added to the Trust at any time.

Anyone with an asset (such as a house) or loved ones (such as a spouse or children) can benefit from creating a Trust. A single or divorced person with a minor child needs a Trust just as much as a married couple with 4 houses. A well-built Trust protects your children, any disabled heirs and those with significant debts.

The creator(s) of the Trust are called the Settlor(s), the manager(s) of the Trust is called the Trustee(s), and the loved one(s) who ultimately receive the benefits of the assets are called the Beneficiary(ies). Usually, the Settlors are the first Trustees and Beneficiaries, who then transfer the asset at his/her death to the final Benficiaries such as the children or grand-children.

There are about 20 different kinds of trusts and you can often include several different types of Trusts into one comprehensive document. This is an exciting aspect of creating a Trust, where we can customize your estate plan to meet your unique personal needs. Here are some of the more common types of Trusts:

1. Spousal Trust = this Trust allows immmediate and tax-free transfer of an asset from one spouse to the other, when one of the spouses passes away

2. Disclaimer trust = the Trust lets the surviving spouse control the amount of money received through the trust to avoid taxes, while retaining full control over the asset

3. Special Needs Trust = there are 3 diffferent versions of this Trust, which is built to allow a Trustee or Beneficiary with a disability to receive the maximum government benefits available, while still being able to use a portion of the assets for certain purposes

4. IRA Trust = theTrust receives the money from an IRA account when its creator passes away, but limits the estate’s expenses to creditors and minimizes tax burden to beneficiaries

5. Charitable Remainder Trust = this trust is irrevocable and allows ongoing donations to charity, which greatly benefits the charity and reduces your tax burden

6. Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) Trust = the Trust allows the settlor to provide for a surviving spouse for the rest of his/her life while maintaining the asset itself for the beneficiaries

As stated above, there are many other types of Trusts (including Pet Trusts and Gun Trusts), which are often combined together to meet your unique needs and goals. Give us a call to discuss your personal estate planning options, especially the use of this versatile option.