Downs Law Firm, P.C.

trusts work for regular folks

Trusts Work for Regular Folks

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When you hear the word trust fund, you might think of wealthy kids a big chunk of cash on their 25th birthday. However, trust funds aren’t just for the rich. They are flexible tools to protect your loved ones.

We work with families every week who understand that trusts work for regular folks.

A trust fund is an estate planning tool that anyone who wishes to pass their property to individuals, family members, or nonprofits can use it. Wealthy people use them because they solve many wealth transfer problems and are equally applicable to people who aren’t mega-rich, explains this recent article from Forbes titled “Trust Funds: They’re Not Just For The Wealthy.”

A trust is a legal entity in the same way that a corporation is a legal entity. A trust is used in estate planning to own assets, as instructed by the terms of the trust. Terms commonly used in discussing trusts include:

  • Grantor—The person who creates the trust and places assets into the trust.
  • Beneficiary—The person or organization who will receive the assets, as directed by the trust documents.
  • Trustee—The person who ensures that the trust assets are properly managed and distributed to beneficiaries.

Trusts may contain various property, from real estate to personal property, stocks, bonds, and even entire businesses.

Retirement Plans and tax-deferred annuities should not be transferred into a trust when you are alive, and an estate planning attorney will know how and why to make these decisions. Retirement accounts and other accounts with named beneficiaries don’t need to be placed inside a trust since the asset will go to the named beneficiaries upon death. They do not pass through probate, which is the process of the court validating the will and how assets are passed as directed by the will. However, there may be reasons to designate such accounts to pass to the trust, and your attorney will advise you accordingly.

Assets are transferred into trusts in two main ways: the grantor transfers assets into the trust while living, often by retitling the asset, or within a Last Will and Testament, where a trust is created and will retain certain assets upon their death.

We rarely create wills that do not have a trust of some sort. Some are contingent and will be funded only if a child dies, leaving minor children or being incapacitated when the distribution is made.

We are doing more and more pet trusts to assure that a client’s pet received good care for the pet’s lifetime.

Trusts are used extensively because they work. Some benefits of using a trust as part of an estate plan include:

Avoiding probate. Assets placed in a trust pass to beneficiaries outside of the probate process.

Protecting beneficiaries from themselves. Young adults may be legally able to inherit, but that doesn’t mean they are prepared and ready to handle large amounts of money or property. Trusts can be designed to pass along assets at certain staggered ages or when they reach particular milestones in life.

Protecting assets. Trusts can be created to protect inheritances for beneficiaries from creditors and divorces. Trusts can work for regular folks to ensure a former spouse has no legal claim to the assets in the trust, or to serve essentially as prenuptial agreements.

Tax liabilities. Transferring assets into an irrevocable trust means they are owned and controlled by the trust. For example, with a non-grantor irrevocable trust, the former owner of the assets does not pay taxes on assets in the trust during his or her life, and they are not part of the taxable estate upon death.

Caring for a Special Needs Beneficiary. Disabled individuals who receive government benefits may lose those benefits if they inherit directly. If you want to provide income to someone with special needs when you have passed, a Special Needs Trust (sometimes known as a Supplemental Needs trust) can be created. An experienced estate planning attorney will know how to do this properly.

For all these different forms of protection, trusts work for regular folks in our practice just about every day.

Reference: Forbes (March 15, 2021) “Trust Funds: They’re Not Just For The Wealthy”