A trust account (also referred to as a Living Trust) is a unique account designed to hold funds designated in a trust document for the benefit of specific heirs. Upon your death, the beneficiaries named in the trust account will receive the trust property. This type of trust offers an alternative to using a will, which typically requires the probate process to transfer property to loved ones.
Why Do I Need a Trust Account?
Creating a living trust can potentially save your loved ones time, hassle, and money when transferring your property. Unlike property left through a will, which might go through probate. Probate is the legal process of distributing assets after someone’s death. Probate will incur court costs and lawyer fees. Alternatively, assets held in a trust can be distributed to beneficiaries almost immediately.
However, the need for a living trust depends on individual circumstances.
What is the Difference Between Living Trust and a Will
A living trust and a will are both legal documents that help you decide how your belongings will be distributed after you pass away. In a will, you can also appoint a guardian for your children and pets. However, the instructions in your will only take effect after your death.
The main difference is how assets are handled. In a will, assets have to go through a process called probate, which is overseen by the court. This process can be lengthy, costly, and complex. What’s more, probate is a public process, so details about your belongings and heirs become part of the public record.
On the other hand, a trust’s assets don’t go through probate. Instead, they are directly transferred to your beneficiaries as specified in the trust and remain private.
Who Should Have a Trust Account?
- Individuals with substantial assets or complex estates.
- Business owners with multiple business interests.
- People with multiple properties or out-of-state real estate.
- Those who want to avoid probate and ensure privacy.
General Trust Account Benefits:
- Avoids probate at death.
- Prevents court control of assets during incapacity.
- Consolidates all your assets under one plan.
- Provides maximum privacy.
- Enables quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Allows assets to remain in trust until you decide which family members should inherit.
- May help reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
- Inexpensive and easy to establish and maintain.
- Can be changed or canceled at any time.
- Difficult to contest.
- Prevents court control of minors’ inheritances.
- Can protect dependents with special needs.
- Prevents unintentional disinheriting and issues related to joint ownership.
- Offers professional management with a corporate trustee.
- Provides peace of mind.
Disadvantages of Trust Accounts:
- Initial setup costs and legal fees.
- Ongoing paperwork and management requirements.
- Assets must be transferred to the trust, which can be time-consuming.
- Not suitable for everyone, depending on individual circumstances.
Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts
Many people choose to create a revocable (“modifiable”) living trust as part of their estate plan. This type of trust can be modified or revoked at any time while you are alive. Typically, you will serve as the “trustee” of your living trust, maintaining control over the trust and its assets during your lifetime. In the trust document, you also designate a “backup trustee” who will manage and distribute the trust property after your passing. In the case of a shared living trust, often created by spouses, the backup trustee assumes control after both spouses have passed away.
On the other hand, irrevocable trusts cannot be modified or revoked after they are established. While they may be used for specific purposes, such as reducing taxes, they require relinquishing ownership and control over the trust property.
Advantages of Revocable Trusts:
- Probate Avoidance: Placing assets in a modifiable living trust prevents the need for probate, saving time and expenses. The trust maker can designate beneficiaries and specify distribution instructions.
- Privacy Protection: By avoiding probate, the trust details and asset distribution remain confidential, unlike the public records in probate.
- Incapacity Planning: With a revocable living trust, a alternate trustee can manage assets if the trust maker becomes physically or mentally unable to follow the outlined instructions.
- Asset Separation: Revocable trusts can be useful for separating pre-marital assets in community property states.
Disadvantages of Revocable Trusts:
- Costly and Time-Consuming: Establishing a revocable trust requires re-titling assets and updating accounts, which can be a lengthy and expensive process, especially for complex estates.
- Limited Tax Benefits: Unlike irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts do not offer direct tax benefits since assets and income remain under the trust maker’s control and are taxed on their personal return.
- Creditors’ Access: Assets in a revocable trust are not fully protected against creditors since the trust maker retains some control over them.
Benefits of an Irrevocable Living Trust Accounts:
- Provides asset protection.
- May reduce estate taxes.
- Offers increased creditor protection.
- Can be used for charitable planning and other specialized purposes.
Disadvantages of a Irrevocable Living Trust
- Irrevocable: Once established, an irrevocable living trust cannot be changed or revoked, limiting flexibility.
- Loss of Control: The grantor gives up control over the trust assets, which may be a concern for some individuals.
- Difficulty in Amendments: Making changes to an irrevocable trust typically requires the consent of all inheritors, which can be challenging.
- Transfer of Assets: Assets transferred to the trust are no longer considered part of the grantor’s estate, potentially impacting eligibility for certain benefits.
- Tax Consequences: Depending on the assets and their value, an irrevocable trust may have tax implications that need careful consideration.
- Legal and Administrative Costs: Establishing and maintaining an irrevocable trust can involve higher legal and administrative expenses.
- Time-Consuming Process: The process of creating and funding an irrevocable trust may be more time-consuming than a revocable trust.
- Loss of Use: Once assets are in the trust, the grantor cannot use them personally without the trustee’s approval.
- Limitations on Distributions: The trust terms may restrict or dictate how and when heirs can access trust funds.
- Inflexible Beneficiary Designations: Changing beneficiaries or distributing assets differently may be challenging or impossible once the trust is established.
How Do I Make a Living Trust Account?
To establish a living trust, follow these steps:
- Choose whether to create an individual or shared trust.
- Decide which assets to include in the trust.
- Select a alternate trustee to manage the trust and distribute assets after your passing.
- Designate the recipients who will receive the trust property.
- Create the trust document, which can be done with the help of an attorney or using specialized software.
- Sign the document in the presence of a notary public.
- Transfer title of assets into the trust as needed.
The process might take some time, but it brings all your assets under one plan and helps avoid future court interference.
Do I Still Need a Will if I Have a Living Trust?
Yes, even if you have a living trust, it’s still crucial to have a will. A living trust aims to avoid the need for a will, but there are specific scenarios where having a will is essential:
- Designating a guardian for minor children: You cannot use a trust to name a guardian for your minor children. Therefore, if you have minor children, a will is necessary to appoint a guardian.
- Accounting for property not transferred to the trust: Sometimes, individuals create a trust but forget to formally transfer all their assets to the trust. In such cases, a will acts as a backup to distribute assets that are not part of the trust.
If you pass away without a will or trust, the distribution of your assets will follow the laws of intestacy.
Can a Living Trust Reduce Estate Tax?
For most people, estate taxes are not a concern, as they are levied on estates worth a significant amount. The potential for estate tax savings through a living trust depends on the specific estate tax laws in your region and the value of your estate.
Should I Consider a Professional Trustee?
While you can choose to be the trustee of your living trust, some people opt for a professional trustee, such as a bank or trust company. Professional trustees are experienced in managing investments. Most importantly they remain objective and reliable, and usually charge reasonable fees. This option may be particularly appealing if you don’t have the time, ability, or desire to manage the trust. It is advised that you appoint an alternate trustee in the event your chosen trustee in unable to perform.
Register and Store your Trust in a Safe Place
Registering your Trust Account with The U.S. Will Registry
The U.S. Will Registry is a reputable service that allows individuals to register their wills and living trusts to ensure their location is known. By registering your trust with this service, you create a record that can be accessed by your loved ones, attorneys, or other relevant parties when required. This helps prevent the risk of your trust being lost or overlooked, as it may happen with unregistered documents. Moreover, The U.S Will Registry offers free registration for wills and trusts, making it easily accessible for everyone.
Storing a Copy of your Trust and Will in the iCloud (Online)
In addition to registering your trust, it is advisable to store a digital copy of your trust in a secure and easily accessible location. Sidedrawer.com is a platform that offers free iCloud storage for both the public and attorneys. By storing a copy of your trust in Sidedrawer’s secure iCloud storage, you ensure that a duplicate is readily available in case the original document is misplaced or damaged.
Taking Extra Precautions for Accessibility
In addition to registering your trust with The U.S Will Registry and storing it in Sidedrawer’s iCloud storage, consider informing your alternate trustee and beneficiaries about your registration and storage location. Your family members will not be able to access the information until a death certificate is presented. In addition, those who want access must be listed in your account as having permission.
Moreover, it is advisable to list and inform your attorney about the registrations of your documents. This way, they too can access the registry and the cloud storage in case the need arises and assist your loved ones in finding the trust document promptly.
In conclusion, creating a living trust is a crucial step in estate planning. Furthermore, it offers numerous benefits such as probate avoidance, privacy protection, and efficient asset distribution. However, it is equally essential to register your trust with The U.S Will Registry and store a copy in Sidedrawer’s secure iCloud storage, ensuring its easy accessibility when needed. Informing relevant parties about the trust’s existence and locations provides assurance that your wishes will be fulfilled effectively. Consulting with an experienced estate attorney can further help ensure that all aspects of your living trust are in order and aligned with your specific goals and objectives.