Trusts can be a powerful part of your estate plan, but they’re not a tool that every estate needs to leverage. Do you need a trust? Let’s find out.
What is a Trust?
One of the most common questions we’re asked when working with someone that is in the retirement planning phase of their life is: do you need a trust? And the answer isn’t that simple. A trust may be a way for you to secure your retirement while putting assets in a trust for someone else, but it’s not an estate planning tool for every person or situation.
You can think of a trust as a relationship between:
- Person that sets it up (grantor)
- Beneficiary (beneficiary)
- Person that takes care of the trust (trustee)
An example of a trust can be as simple as:
- Giving someone $20
- Ask the person to give the money to someone else
When you create a trust, you’re allowing the trustee to grant assets, on your behalf, to the beneficiary.
When to Consider a Trust in Your Overall Estate Plan
A trust is not a part of everyone’s retirement planning because it’s really a part of your estate plan. You’ll be creating a trust for someone else, although while you’re alive, you may have access to the trust and all assets within, depending on how the trust was created.
Do you need a trust? No, it’s optional.
But that doesn’t mean that you might not benefit from one. A trust is a good option when you have:
- Children who are too young to really be a beneficiary
- Children who are disabled and receiving benefits that they may lose from inheritance
- Beneficiaries suffering from addiction that may only be granted items in the trust under certain conditions
We also see a lot of trusts being made because the parent of a child isn’t sure that their child’s marriage is going to last, and they do not want part of their estate to go to the ex-wife or ex-husband.
A will distributes the assets out easily in an estate plan, while a trust allows the trustee to manage the estate over time until the beneficiary is ready to receive all or part of the trust.
Trusts are a great way to help divide assets in a second marriage. Perhaps you have children from your first marriage or prior to your second marriage, and you want them to receive a portion of your estate upon your death.
If you don’t have a trust in place, your assets would go to your spouse who may or may not distribute assets to these children.
So, there are a lot of great reasons to choose a trust as a way to strengthen your estate plan. The trust type that you choose will be very important, too.
Most Common Types of Trusts
There are a lot of different types of trusts, and some of these trusts can be very specialized. We’re going to cover the most common types of trusts, but before we do, it’s important to discuss something that is very important for all estate planning matters: probate.
What is Probate and Why You Want to Avoid Probate
When assets are transferred at death, this would be considered probate. A will is, essentially, probate because it helps transfer assets after your death, while a trust can have assets put into it while you’re alive.
Let’s say that you have a house when you die. The house will go through probate and then be given to your heirs.
When assets go through probate, there are drawbacks, such as:
- Longer time to transfer the asset
But there are some circumstances where probate may be beneficial. This is not as common, but it can happen.
Revocable Living Trusts
A trust that provides protections for beneficiaries, but they have one key benefit: they’re in existence when you’re alive. While you’re alive, you can place assets in the trust to avoid probate.
These trusts are often created for life insurance or charitable donations. Once created, these trusts cannot be modified, revoked or changed after their creation. If an asset is placed in the trust, it cannot be taken out even if your wishes change.
A very common type of trust that is built into your will. These trusts are only “created” upon your demise, and they’re often in place to protect children that are too young to benefit from the estate just yet.
Special Needs Trusts
A trust for someone that has qualified for Medicaid or Medicare benefits. These trusts are drafted in a way that provides funds to the individual while also ensuring that they qualify for their benefits.
You can also have a trust that is more unofficial but is used when someone is less mature, suffers from a medical condition or is an addict and, at this time, shouldn’t benefit from the trust.
The person can still receive their fair share of the estate, but in the case of an addiction, you can put the share in a trust so that when the child is sober, they can receive assets from the trust. A trustee will often be the deciding factor on whether a special needs trust beneficiary is ready to benefit from the trust.
When a Trust Doesn’t Make Sense for Your Estate Plan
Trusts are a good option for some, but they may not be a good option for others. The times when a trust doesn’t make much sense are:
- All heirs are doing well with no concerns, in happy marriages, etc.
- Most of your assets transfer outside of probate, i.e. life insurance, retirement funds, etc.
It truly comes down to the beneficiaries whether a trust is necessary. If you have family dynamics, where maybe an heir is on drugs or gambles, you may want a trust. On the other hand, there are times when a 20-year-old is mature and responsible, so a trust isn’t required.
Choosing a Trustee
Sometimes, choosing a trustee is easy. You have someone in your life that you trust and know will handle your trust accordingly. When you don’t have a clear person that you can trust to handle these matters, then you have a few potential options:
You can also choose co-trustees where two people are left in charge of the trust.
Deciding on a trustee is very difficult. The trustee may be in their position for 20+ years. A trust can be around for decades, meaning that the trustee is in a vital position where they have to make decisions on distributing money or investing assets so that the trust grows over time.
The trustee may have to tell children “no” when they ask for a distribution.
You have to choose a trustee that you can trust and is very responsible. Since this is a position that the trustee may be in for a long time, they need to be reliable, dependable, in good health and someone that you have a lot of faith in to do the right thing.
Trusts are a complicated form of estate planning, and it’s important to speak to an estate planning professional to help you really determine if a trust is a good option for your estate.If you want to learn more about how to secure your retirement or need help with your retirement planning, click here to schedule an introductory call with us.