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February 06, 2024

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Trust

Estate planning can be like a puzzle. You know the ultimate picture you’re trying to create, but you might not know how to put the pieces together. That’s where the Law Office of David S. Schleiffarth can help. We can work with you to figure out if setting up a trust or multiple trusts would benefit your estate and give you peace of mind. Call us today to set up a consultation and speak with an experienced attorney. 

What is a trust? 

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one party, known as the “grantor” or “settlor,” transfers ownership of assets or property to another party, the ‘trustee.” This transfer is made for the benefit of a third party, known as the “beneficiary.” 

Trusts are an essential tool in estate planning, allowing individuals to manage and distribute their assets in a structured and controlled manner, both during their lifetime and after their passing. They provide a means to protect, preserve, and allocate assets, often with specific conditions or instructions outlined in a trust document. Trusts can serve a variety of purposes, from avoiding probate and minimizing estate taxes to ensuring the financial security of loved ones. They can also be a powerful tool for benefitting charitable causes. 

In Missouri, the laws governing trusts are primarily contained within the “Missouri Uniform Trust Code” (MUTC). The Missouri Uniform Trust Code is a comprehensive set of laws that provides the legal framework for the creation, administration, modification, and termination of trusts within the state. The MUTC is codified under Chapter 456 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

What are the types of trusts? 

There are several different types of trusts, each designed to serve specific purposes and meet varying estate planning needs. Here are some of the most common types of trusts:

Revocable Living Trust: This trust allows the grantor to maintain control over their assets during their lifetime while specifying how those assets should be managed and distributed upon their death. It can help avoid probate and provide for a smooth transition of assets.

Irrevocable Trust: An irrevocable trust generally cannot be altered or revoked without the consent of the beneficiaries. It can be used to remove assets from the grantor’s estate, reducing estate taxes and protecting assets from creditors.

Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT): A CRT allows the grantor to donate assets to a charitable organization while retaining an income stream from those assets for themselves or their beneficiaries. It provides potential tax benefits and supports philanthropic goals.

Charitable Lead Trust (CLT): In a CLT, income from the trust is directed to a charitable organization for a specified period, after which the remaining assets are typically transferred to non-charitable beneficiaries, such as family members.

Special Needs Trust (SNT): SNTs are created to provide for the financial needs of individuals with disabilities without jeopardizing their eligibility for government assistance programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Testamentary Trust: This trust is established through a will and only takes effect upon the grantor’s death. It allows for the management and distribution of assets after the probate process.

Life Insurance Trust (ILIT): ILITs are specifically designed to hold life insurance policies, keeping the policy proceeds out of the insured’s taxable estate and providing liquidity to cover estate taxes.

These are just a few examples of the diverse range of trusts available in estate planning. The choice of which trust to use depends on an individual’s specific financial goals, family circumstances, and estate planning objectives. Consulting with an experienced Missouri estate planning lawyer is crucial to determine the most suitable trust(s) for your unique situation.

Advantages of a Trust

Using a trust as part of your estate planning strategy offers several advantages, making it a valuable tool for individuals and families. Here are some key benefits of using a trust:

Probate Avoidance and Privacy: One of the primary advantages of a trust is that it allows assets to pass directly to beneficiaries without going through the probate process. Probate can be time-consuming, expensive, and a matter of public record, whereas assets held in a trust can be distributed more efficiently and privately.

Control and Flexibility: Trusts allow you to maintain control over how your assets are managed and distributed, even after your passing. You can specify detailed instructions for when and how beneficiaries receive their inheritances, ensuring that your wishes are followed.

Asset Protection: Certain types of trusts, such as irrevocable trusts, can shield assets from creditors, lawsuits, and potential claims. This protection can be especially valuable for high-net-worth individuals or those in professions with potential liability.

Minimization of Estate Taxes: Well-structured trusts can help minimize estate taxes by removing assets from your taxable estate. This can lead to significant tax savings, ensuring that more of your wealth passes to your intended beneficiaries.

Avoiding Family Disputes: Clearly defined trust terms and distribution instructions can help prevent disputes among beneficiaries and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. This might give you peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones won’t be bickering over finances. 

These advantages illustrate the versatility and value of trusts in estate planning. However, the specific benefits you can achieve will depend on your unique financial situation, goals, and the terms of the trust you choose. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential to determine the most appropriate trust structure for your individual needs.

Disadvantages of a Trust

Trusts offer several advantages. However, there are some drawbacks to consider. First, trusts can be complex. And, sometimes the cost of set-up and trust administration might not be worth the potential financial benefits. Additionally, a trust does sometimes mean you lose control over your assets, particularly if you are setting up an irrevocable trust. Trusts aren’t for every scenario. 

Clear documentation and professional guidance can help mitigate potential disadvantages while maximizing the benefits of using a trust in your estate planning. If you’re not sure whether a trust would benefit your estate or be more trouble than it’s worth, call an estate planning attorney. 

Call a Missouri Estate Planning Lawyer Today

If you’re ready to stop worrying over the future of your estate, call a trust lawyer today. We are ready to help you make a game plan. In many scenarios, that includes setting up a trust. You may be thinking of how to use your money to make a big impact for the cause you care about. Or, you may be hoping you can give your loved ones some financial security. Regardless of the scenario, we are ready to help.

This article represents the opinion of the author and is intended for educational purposes. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. One should always consult with an experienced attorney before making estate planning decisions.

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