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Are Trusts Still Valid Estate-Planning Tools?

investment 401K Roth IRATrusts are often viewed as estate-planning tools used to reduce estate taxes. With the large estate tax exclusion amount ($5.25 million in 2013), does that mean that trusts are no longer needed for estate planning purposes? The answer is probably not. Trusts are established for many purposes, not just to reduce estate taxes. Some of the more commonly used trusts include:

Revocable living trust ― This trust is established for reasons other than the reduction of estate taxes. With a revocable living trust, ownership of assets is transferred to the trust while you are alive. You can keep any or all of the income, act as trustee, change the trust’s provisions, or terminate the trust. A successor trustee can be named to take over if you become mentally or physically disabled. Assets in the trust are controlled by the trust agreement and are not subject to probate proceedings, which is considered one of its major advantages.

Bypass or credit shelter trust ― Generally, this trust is used to ensure both spouses take advantage of the estate tax exclusion amount without directly transferring assets to other beneficiaries until both spouses have died. Assets equal to the estate tax exclusion about are placed in trust after your death. Your spouse may then use the income and, in certain circumstances some of the trust’s principal, with the remaining assets transferred to your other beneficiaries after your spouse’s death. Now that portability of the unused estate tax exemption has been made permanent, surviving spouses can use the unutilized portion of a predeceased spouse’s estate tax exclusion amount without a trust. However, individuals with very large estates or those who want to control the ultimate distribution of their estate may still find this trust useful.

Qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust ― This trust is typically used when the spouse wants to control the use of any remaining assets that are not placed in the bypass or credit shelter trust. Assets that are not placed in the credit shelter trust are placed in the QTIP trust. Income from the trust is distributed to the surviving spouse during his/her lifetime. This qualifies for the unlimited marital deduction, so estate taxes will not be paid after the first spouse’s death. After the surviving spouse’s death, the principal is distributed to beneficiaries designated by the first spouse. This trust is often used to protect children from a previous marriage or to ensure that if a surviving spouse remarries, his/her new spouse does not inherit any of the assets.

Irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) ― This trust is used to ensure that the proceeds from a life insurance policy are not subject to estate taxes. Often, the insurance policy is obtained to help pay estate taxes with the policy held by the irrevocable trust. Annually, you can make gifts to the trust so the trustee can pay the policy premium. After your death, the trust receives the insurance proceeds, distributing them in accordance with the trust’s terms. With the large estate tax exclusion amount, you may wonder whether ILITs are still a valid estate-planning strategy. Even if the proceeds aren’t needed for state tax purposes, you may find other uses for the proceeds, such as leaving larger bequests to beneficiaries or charitable organizations. Deciding whether to set up a new ILIT is a tougher decision. You should first analyze all relevant factors, including your views about the future of the estate tax.

Charitable remainder trust ― Typically, this trust is used to provide a large charitable contribution while avoiding a large capital gains tax bill. You transfer an asset to the trust, typically one with a low basis that has appreciated significantly. Since the trust is a tax-exempt organization, it can then sell the asset without paying any capital gains taxes and reinvest the proceeds. You receive an immediate charitable contribution deduction equal to the present value of the property the charity will receive when the trust is terminated. You also receive the income from the trust, with the principal going to the charity after the trust terminates.

Qualified personal residence trust ― With this trust, you place your home or vacation home in an irrevocable trust, retaining the right to live in the home for a specified number of yours. When the trust terminates, ownership passes to your beneficiaries. The gift tax value is determined on the date the house is placed in trust, by calculating the present value discounted over the trust’s term. If you die before the trust ends, the home is included in your estate at its fair market value. Since present value calculations are used to determine the gift’s value, this trust allows you to leverage the use of your lifetime gift exclusion.

If you’d like to discuss trusts in more detail, including how they may fit in your estate plan, please call.

Copyright © Integrated Concepts 2013. Some articles in this newsletter were prepared by Integrated Concepts, a separate, nonaffiliated business entity. This newsletter intends to offer factual and up-to-date information on the subjects discussed, but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. The appropriate professional advisers should be consulted before implementing any options presented. No party assumes liability for any loss or damage resulting from errors or omissions or reliance on or use of this material.


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