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In it’s simplest terms, a trust is established to provide legal protection for assets, and to make sure those assets are distributed according to the wishes of the trustor. Here are seven signs you may need to create a trust as part of your comprehensive financial plan.

  1. You have a (federal) taxable estate – the federal gift and estate tax exemption is $11.58M dollars per person in 2020, or $23.6M total for a married couple. While this amount is a record high for the estate tax exemption, it is scheduled to reset to $5M (indexed for inflation) by the end of 2025. It may also be reduced before 2025 through various legislative actions, such as budget reconciliation.  
  2. You have a (state) taxable estate – 12 states, as well as Washington D.C., still have a state-level estate tax. More importantly, only Hawaii and Maryland allow for portability of the state estate tax exemption. As a result, if the state estate tax exemption is not utilized at the death of the first spouse, it is lost, unlike the federal estate tax.  
  3. Incapacity Planning – if you become incapacitated, and unable to manage your own affairs, a trust may allow a spouse, family member, or professional trustee to step-in to help manage your assets and work closely with your agent designated to manage your other affairs.  
  4. Asset Protection – this applies for spouses and your children. A trust allows you to ensure your family will inherit the remaining assets of a trust created for your spouse if you pass away first, rather than to a new spouse or step-children. A trust may also provide asset protection for your children from potential divorcing spouses, creditors, or malpractice lawsuits if they are in high liability professional careers. 
  5. Privacy – assets passing through probate are part of the public record, which anyone can look up when a person passes away. For those wishing to keep their estate out of the public record, assets contributed to a revocable trust can help accomplish this goal, as they do not pass through probate.
  6. Charitable Giving – a trust can help accomplish various charitable giving goals, as well as keep those bequests out of the public record.  
  7. Special Needs Planning – a well-drafted special needs trust may allow parents to provide for their children who have special needs and need government assistance without jeopardizing their child’s ability to qualify for government aid they may otherwise need.