Whether you are looking to manage your own assets, control how your assets are distributed after your death, plan for incapacity or enable your business to continue uninterrupted should something happen to you, trusts can help you accomplish your estate planning goals. By establishing a trust, you ensure that the assets gathered during your life will not disappear because of the inexperience or inability of beneficiaries. A byproduct of that is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved ones will continue to be financially protected.
“One of the benefits of a trust is that it’s established based on the unique needs and objectives of the individual and the individual’s family, and tailored to meet those needs,” says Susan L. Nelson, CTFA, Senior Trust Executive and Senior Vice President at First Commonwealth Advisors.
Smart Business spoke with Nelson about the benefits and management of trusts.
What are the different types of trusts?
There are many types of trusts, the most basic being the revocable and irrevocable. The type of trust you use will depend on what you are trying to accomplish. A revocable trust, often referred to as a living trust, allows the individual establishing the trust to remain in control of the assets and allows them to change the beneficiary, the trustee, the trust terms and even end the trust. The grantor can use the trust for investment management, bill paying, tax planning and avoidance of probate. It can continue on in the event of incapacity, providing seamless financial management for the grantor, and can continue on after death for the benefit of others. Once the grantor dies, the trust becomes irrevocable.
An irrevocable trust is where the grantor gives complete control to an independent trustee who manages the assets for the grantor and beneficiaries. You cannot easily change or revoke this type of trust. It’s frequently used to minimize potential estate taxes by reducing the taxable estate of the grantor because the assets transferred to this trust, plus any future appreciation, are removed from the grantor’s gross estate. Additionally, property transferred through an irrevocable trust will avoid probate and may be protected from future creditors.
What are the benefits of trusts?
Some benefits are:
- Continuous financial management in the event of incapacity.
- Professional investment management.
- Financial privacy — a trust isn’t public like a will.
- Probate avoidance with no lapse in asset protection and investments — probate can take a year or more, depending on the complexity.
- Asset management for inheritances.
- Creditor protection for heirs. If a beneficiary is going through bankruptcy, money in the trust cannot be touched.
Trusts can provide lifetime financial protection for a surviving spouse or disabled child, an inheritance for children from an earlier marriage, can minimize estate taxes and provide a future legacy for charity. Trusts can be used in order to protect, preserve and transfer wealth for the benefit of individuals, families and organizations. While trusts can be used for myriad circumstances, they are not for everyone. Discuss the advantages and benefits of a trust for your situation with a financial adviser.
How should a trust be managed?
Every trust is based on your needs and objectives. When setting up the trust, determine what you’re trying to accomplish so you and your financial adviser can decide how to reach those objectives. One of the first things looked at are tax implications and how to reduce pain points. Providing for future beneficiaries should also be examined. After the trust is established, you’ll need to meet periodically to discuss the investment portfolio and life changes to be certain the trust still meets your needs.
Why choose a professional trustee?
Institutional fiduciaries are pros at what they do, have professionals on staff with years of experience, and are on the cutting edge of regulatory and tax law changes. They may be the best option for reliability, experience, responsiveness, neutrality and arms-length objectivity with beneficiaries, objective investment guidance, convenience and consistency over time. An institutional fiduciary doesn’t age or die.
Susan L. Nelson, CTFA, is a senior trust executive and senior vice president at First Commonwealth Advisors. Reach her at (724) 832-6062 or email@example.com.
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Insights Wealth Management is brought to you by First Commonwealth Bank