Types of Trusts for Estate Planning

by | Dec 12, 2022 | estate planning

updated 7/20/23

Estate planning is a critical aspect of financial management that ensures the smooth and efficient distribution of assets and wealth after an individual’s passing. It involves making arrangements and decisions regarding the management, protection, and distribution of one’s assets to ensure they are handled according to specific wishes. Trusts are an essential tool in estate planning, offering numerous benefits such as flexibility, tax advantages, and the ability to avoid probate. Knowing which type of trust would be beneficial to your circumstances is essential.  

Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is one of the most popular and versatile types of trusts used in estate planning. It allows individuals to maintain control over their assets during their lifetime while specifying how those assets should be managed and distributed upon their death. The grantor, who creates the trust, can modify, amend, or revoke it at any time, making it a flexible option. 

By transferring assets into the trust, they are held by the trust and not subject to probate, ensuring privacy and efficiency in asset distribution. A revocable living trust is particularly useful for individuals who desire control over their assets during their lifetime and want to avoid the time-consuming and public probate process.

Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust, as the name suggests, is a trust that cannot be altered or revoked once it is established. By transferring assets into an irrevocable trust, the grantor relinquishes ownership and control over those assets. While this may seem restrictive, irrevocable trusts offer significant advantages in terms of tax planning and asset protection. 

Since the grantor no longer owns the assets, they are not included in their taxable estate, potentially reducing the estate tax burden. Irrevocable trusts can also protect assets from creditors, as the assets are no longer considered part of the grantor’s personal wealth. However, it is crucial to carefully consider the implications of an irrevocable trust, as it involves a permanent transfer of assets and requires careful planning and expert advice.

Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is created through a will and comes into effect upon the death of the individual. Unlike living trusts, testamentary trusts do go through the probate process. This type of trust is commonly used to provide for the management and distribution of assets for minor children or individuals with special needs. By establishing a testamentary trust, the grantor can ensure that their assets are managed and distributed according to their specific instructions. 

Testamentary trusts can also incorporate provisions for staggered distributions, ensuring that beneficiaries receive assets at different stages of their lives, such as reaching a certain age or achieving specific milestones. While testamentary trusts provide control and protection for beneficiaries, it is important to note that they are subject to probate, which may result in additional costs and delays.

Charitable Trust

A charitable trust allows individuals to support charitable organizations or causes while also providing potential tax benefits. There are two primary types of charitable trusts: charitable remainder trusts (CRT) and charitable lead trusts (CLT). In a charitable remainder trust, the grantor designates a specific period during which the trust assets generate income for the grantor or another beneficiary. After this period, the remaining assets are distributed to the designated charity. This arrangement allows individuals to receive income during their lifetime or for a specified term while also benefiting a charitable cause. 

Charitable remainder trusts can provide significant tax advantages, including income tax deductions and the avoidance of capital gains tax on appreciated assets. On the other hand, a charitable lead trust operates in the opposite manner. The charity receives income from the trust for a specified period, after which the remaining assets are passed to the grantor’s beneficiaries. Charitable trusts are an excellent way to leave a lasting legacy while also enjoying tax benefits.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust, also known as a supplemental needs trust, is designed to provide for the financial well-being of individuals with disabilities without disqualifying them from receiving government benefits. By placing assets in a special needs trust, individuals can ensure that their loved ones with disabilities have access to necessary resources without jeopardizing their eligibility for programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

This type of trust provides for the supplemental needs of the beneficiary, such as medical expenses, education, and personal care, while preserving their eligibility for government assistance. Special needs trusts can be structured to supplement government benefits and enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities, ensuring that their financial needs are met without disrupting vital support systems.

Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)

A Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) allows individuals to transfer their primary residence or vacation home to the trust while retaining the right to live in the property for a specified period. This trust is particularly useful for individuals who want to reduce their estate tax liability by removing the property’s value from their taxable estate. The grantor transfers the property to the trust, and the property’s value is determined at the time of the transfer. After the trust term ends, the property is passed on to the designated beneficiaries, typically family members, at a reduced value, potentially minimizing estate tax liability. 

QPRTs offer tax advantages and allow individuals to transfer property to future generations while maintaining use and enjoyment of the property during their lifetime.

Which type of trust for estate planning is right for me? 

Determining the right type of trust for your individual needs depends on various factors, including your specific goals, financial situation, and estate planning objectives. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney or a financial advisor can provide valuable guidance and help you make an informed decision. 

Schedule a Consultation with a Professional Estate Planning Attorney

Contact us today at Galanti & Copenhaver to schedule a consultation and let us guide you through the complexities of estate planning. Whether you require a revocable living trust for maximum control and flexibility or an irrevocable trust to minimize taxes and protect your assets, our knowledgeable attorneys will provide personalized solutions tailored to your unique circumstances.