Many people mentally associate using a trust in their estate plan with the ludicrously wealthy. While it is true that very rich people benefit from using a trust when they plan their legacies, middle-class and working-class Americans also benefit from trusts in certain situations.
You might want to consider whether you’re estate has any factors that might make a trust particularly beneficial.
Do you have a blended family?
It is relatively common for adults to divorce after having children and then remarry, possibly with someone who has children of their own from a previous relationship. Blended families can create many estate planning complications, not the least of which is the risk of either children or a spouse being unhappy with terms and bringing a challenge against your last will. A trust reduces the likelihood of a challenge and gives you more ability to finesse the terms of your estate.
Do you have a large enough estate to worry about taxes?
If you have a multimillion-dollar estate when you consider various assets like your investment accounts, real estate holdings and life insurance, there could be tax implications if you don’t plan carefully. A trust can reduce the taxable value of your estate and therefore help maximize how much you pass on to the people you love.
Do you have or could you have a lot of debt?
Payments to creditors can eliminate the assets you leave behind for loved ones. If you have a lot of debt or holes in your medical insurance coverage, funding a trust now can protect your assets from claims by creditors if you accumulate a lot of debt before you die.
Do people in your family receive any kind of government benefits?
Do you have a loved one that needs Medicaid or similar benefits for their continued independent living? A spouse with declining health, a child with special needs or even a sibling who has been in a car crash that resulted in a severe brain injury could all be family situations that necessitate a trust.
By using a trust for a loved one who needs state benefits, you allow them to continue to receive the state benefits they require while augmenting their standard of living with assets from the trust. Carefully limiting what someone can use will prevent them from becoming ineligible for future benefits.
You worry about a troubled family member
If your spouse has developed an addiction to pain medication or your child has a history of going globe-trotting whenever they get their hands on large amounts of money, a trust can be a way for you to limit how the people you love use the resources you leave to them.
Discussing your family’s unique situations and your wishes as a testator with an attorney can give you a better idea of whether a trust could help your estate plan.