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When is a Trust a Good Idea?

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If having assets distributed outright to a beneficiary could cause potential problems, there are several reasons to think about creating a trust.

When is a trust a good idea? Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law answers that question almost every time a prospective client walks through the door for estate planning. One tip- If you prefer to place specific conditions on your assets after you pass away, you should have a trust in place, says Kiplinger’s recent article, “Why Do I Need a Trust?”

Trusts can be especially important with second marriages, where one spouse wants to leave their assets to their children but not their stepchildren. Here are some other benefits of a trust:

Creditor Protection. If your profession has a high probability of liability, having assets transferred via a trust (once the trust becomes irrevocable) may shelter funds from being attached in a lawsuit. This can be very specific concerning state law and the type of lawsuit, so discuss this with an experienced estate planning attorney before making any decisions.

Passing Funds Outside of the Estate. For large estates that are anticipated to grow, creating trusts during your lifetime and gifting assets can remove the growth from your estate and lower future estate taxes. If your estate is higher than the exemption, and you have more funds than you need to live on, funding an irrevocable trust now is beneficial. Also, remember, revocable (or living) trusts become irrevocable on your passing, so anything in the revocable trust will be out of the beneficiary’s estate.

Providing for Grandchildren. If you want to provide for grandchildren at your death or don’t trust the parents to set inheritance funds aside for their children, creating a trust for the grandchildren is an option. If you leave assets outright to their parents, there’s no guarantee that the funds will get to them.

Protect Against Fraud or Beneficiary Changes. Seniors can be duped into updating their beneficiaries when they’re in the hospital or under hospice care. If the individual can sign a form and their signature matches what is on file at the custodian—and they have no immediate family to catch the update—this can be a problem. If the elderly person is not of sound mind, the attorney will likely be able to notice something is wrong compared to submitting a beneficiary form to a custodian directly.

Special Needs Beneficiaries. If you have incapacitated beneficiaries who require special care due to mental or physical disability, setting up a special needs trust may be a good move. A Special Needs Trust will ensure that assets can be given to this person but not interfere with government benefits or disability payments.

Ask an experienced estate planning attorney if your situation and your intentions make a trust a good idea for you. Attorneys like Beck, Lenox & Stolzer can help you protect your assets and your wishes. We offer a special trust we call a Heritage Trust which can protect your children’s and grandchildren’s inheritances from creditors, bankruptcy and even divorce. Find out more about that by scheduling a brief phone consultation with one of our attorneys. It’s free, with no strings attached!

Reference: Kiplinger (August 31, 2022) “Why Do I Need a Trust?”

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