Many of my clients ask me about the benefits of using a trust as part of their estate plan but they are unaware that there are many different types of trusts and each may serve an important purpose as a part of your estate plan, depending on what your ultimate goals and concerns are.
For instance, a special needs trust allows for your beneficiary to receive a stipend of money or financial help of some sort from the trustee without affecting or negating any financial aid they receive from the government due to a disability or disorder. Of all the many categories of trust, the two most basis are revocable and irrevocable.
Every trust, no matter what its purpose, will be labeled as either revocable or irrevocable. An irrevocable trust serves the dual purpose of asset protection and estate tax reduction. The assets in an irrevocable trust are protected because the grantor no longer owns them in the eyes of the law.
When an irrevocable trust is created, a new entity is formed with its very own federal tax id number. It is not an extension of its creator. On the contrary, it is its own unit that can accept, manage and distribute assets through the named trustee and only by the wording of the initial trust language. Once the irrevocable trust is created and funded, it can no longer be amended or revoked. The only parties with access to the trust assets are the trustee and the beneficiaries.
The grantor is not permitted to be the trustee or the beneficiary. However, the trustee may be the same party as the beneficiary and, in fact, this is often the most ideal situation. Once the assets are in the irrevocable trust, they are now protected from the creditors, litigants and spouse of the grantor.
The assets are also protected from the creditors, litigants and spouses of any trustees or beneficiaries, so long as the assets remain in the trust. Since the irrevocable trust has no creditors of its own, the assets will remain out of the reach of any financial vultures looking to acquire them.
In addition, by removing these assets from your individual name and assigning them to the newly formed irrevocable trust, you have reduced your eventual estate tax level by that same amount. When you die, the federal government will add up the value of all of the assets you owned in your individual name and assess your estate with a tax based on that value.
This estate tax will take into account real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, collectibles, cars, jewelry, paintings, and even life insurance policies. By moving your assets from your individual name into the name of your newly created irrevocable trust, you will remove those assets from your estate even if you retain access and enjoyment to them during life.