Estate Planning and Trusts

Living trusts enable you to control the distribution of your estate, and certain trusts may enable you to reduce or avoid many of the taxes and fees that will be imposed upon your death.

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A trust is a legal arrangement under which one person, the trustee, controls property given by another person, the trustor, for the benefit of a third person, the beneficiary. When you establish a revocable living trust, you are allowed to be the trustor, the trustee, and the beneficiary of that trust.

Avoiding Probate Through Trust Estate Planning

When you set up a living trust, you transfer ownership of all the assets you’d like to place in the trust from yourself to the trust.  Legally, you no longer own any of the assets in your trust. Your trust now owns your assets. But, as the trustee, you maintain complete control. You can buy or sell as you see fit. You can even give assets away.

Upon your death, assuming that you have transferred all your assets to the revocable trust, there isn’t anything to probate because the assets are held in the trust. Therefore, properly established living trusts completely avoid probate. If you use a living trust, your estate will be available to your heirs upon your death, without any of the delays or expensive court proceedings that accompany the probate process.

One Estate Planning Trust Strategy

There are some trust strategies that serve very specific estate needs. One of the most widely used is a living trust with an A-B provision. An A-B trust enables you to pass on up to double the exemption amount to your heirs free of estate taxes.

When an A-B trust is implemented, two subsequent trusts are created upon the death of the first spouse. The assets will be allocated between the survivor’s trust, or "A" trust, and the decedent’s trust, or "B" trust.

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This will create two taxable entities, each of which will be entitled to use a personal exemption.

The surviving spouse retains full control of his or her trust. He or she can also receive income from the deceased spouse’s trust and can even withdraw principal from it when necessary for health, support, or maintenance.

On the death of the second spouse, the assets of both trusts pass directly to the heirs, completely avoiding probate. If each of these trusts contains less than the exemption amount, these assets will pass to the heirs free of federal estate taxes.

The information provided here is to assist you in planning for your future. Proper tax and legal advice should always be obtained.

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