If you think that trusts are only for the wealthy, you’re missing out on some wonderful opportunities to make your estate plan something more than just a will and a power of attorney. In fact, trusts are arguably the most versatile estate planning tool we planners have in our arsenals. They can be used to accomplish a wide variety of objectives and create benefits you may not have realized were possible.
Here are 13 ways adding trusts to your estate plan will benefit you:
- Protect your assets from attack – Creditors, lawsuits, bankruptcies, and even ex-spouses can declare war on your hard-earned assets. Re-titling property in the name of a trust can shield those assets from future liabilities.
- Avoid the probate process – Assets that don’t already have named beneficiaries (e.g., 401k plans, IRAs) have to pass through the probate process so that title can be legally changed to your heirs. Or you can do so ahead of time by way of a living trust, so probate is not necessary. This strategy works with out-of-state property too.
- Provide for loved ones with special needs – Funding future care for family members with special needs is simple with a trust. Assets are set aside for the care of the beneficiary, with management and distribution tasked to a trusted individual. And any public assistance being received won’t be disrupted.
- Avoid estate taxes – Estate taxes are based on the value of your estate assets. If available exemptions won’t cover the value of your estate, fund a trust with enough value to keep your estate below the taxable threshold and you’ve just saved money for your heirs.
- Protect a surviving spouse – Trusts can provide seamless support and control of assets for your surviving spouse after you pass, because title to property can be transferred without going through the probate process.
- Address blended family concerns – Where there are multiple marriages involved, trusts can ensure equitable treatment among children and other members of the blended families.
- Fulfill charitable intent – Donating wealth has tax benefits as well as allowing you to support a charity or non-profit organization that is close to your heart. Trusts created to accomplish your benevolence can also provide income streams for your heirs.
- Plan for Medicaid benefits – Nursing homes can be expensive and a majority of people think they’ll never need one, but you leave your wealth at risk by not planning for that possibility. A trust can shield your assets that might normally keep you from qualifying for Medicaid.
- Safeguard inheritance – Trusts offer protection for assets intended for minor or young adult beneficiaries until they are sufficiently mature to handle their inherited wealth. Beneficiaries receive funds as needed or at the trustee’s discretion, and control of the funds can be transferred to the beneficiary once they’ve demonstrated the appropriate fiscal skills.
- Provide for beloved pets – Money can be set aside specifically for the care of pets we leave behind or during our incapacity. Trustees distribute funds to caregivers who tend to the pet’s care and welfare in your absence.
- Protect and support troubled heirs – Loved ones that struggle with destructive behaviors can benefit from trusts created for their support, while protecting assets from squandering.
- Maintain family privacy – By using trusts to transfer title to assets outside the probate process, your family’s wealth and other confidential information can be kept out of the public eye.
- Minimize income tax – Trusts can be used to defer or shift income tax liability to other lower tax bracket individuals or entities.