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Why Trusts are Important Estate Planning Tools

Posted by Nina Whitehurst | Jul 08, 2024 | 0 Comments

Estate planning involves creating a plan for where – and to whom – your assets will go upon your death. The process can include making a will, designating which of your loved ones should receive your retirement accounts and life insurance policies, and minimizing estate taxes. Overall, an estate plan helps ensure that you can provide for your loved ones after you have passed away.

What Is a Will?

Many people are familiar with a will as a means of distributing assets. A will is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets and property should be distributed after death. It allows individuals to specify who will receive belongings and in what proportions. Wills also designate guardians for minor children and can help minimize family disputes over inheritance.

In some ways, a trust can be even more effective for asset distribution.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement where a person, known as the grantor or settlor, transfers his or her assets to a trustee. The trustee then manages and distributes those assets to heirs according to the terms specified in the trust agreement.

Some people shy away from this legal document because of the extra cost. However, many are not aware that they can in fact save time and money in the long run. Trusts offer several significant benefits that make them essential components of any comprehensive estate plan. The advantages include the following:

Probate Avoidance

One of the primary advantages of trusts is their ability to avoid the probate process. Probate is the legal process through which a court validates a deceased person's will before distributing the decedent's assets. It can be a lengthy and costly process, subject to court supervision and public scrutiny.

By using a trust, your estate can bypass probate entirely. This ensures a faster, more efficient transfer of assets to your intended heirs. You'll not only save time and money, but also maintain your privacy. This is because trust documents are not public records like probated wills.


Another important aspect of trusts is their flexibility. You can work with an estate planning attorney to tailor them to meet your specific needs and goals.

For example, if the grantor has minor children or heirs who are not yet responsible enough to handle their inheritance, they can create a trust to provide for their financial well-being until they reach a certain age or milestone. This allows the grantor to exercise control over how and when the assets are distributed, ensuring the grantor's loved ones are taken care of in the best possible way.

Asset Protection

Trusts are also valuable tools for protecting assets from creditors and lawsuits. By transferring assets to an irrevocable trust, the grantor effectively removes them from his or her personal ownership, making them less susceptible to potential legal claims or judgments. This can be particularly advantageous for people in high-risk professions or with substantial wealth. Additionally, trusts can safeguard assets when the grantor loses capacity, ensuring that a designated trustee manages the grantor's affairs and finances according to the grantor's wishes.

Philanthropic Legacy

Charitable giving is another area in which this estate planning tool can prove especially helpful. If you like to give back, you can set up a charitable trust in your estate plan. It can support the causes that you care about and allow you to leave a lasting impact on an organization that is important to you.

Through a charitable trust, you can donate assets while retaining income from those assets during your lifetime. This allows you to support charitable organizations and potentially receive certain tax benefits, all while ensuring that your philanthropic legacy endures.

Tax Planning

Trusts can be a powerful tool for tax optimization. By leveraging their tax advantages, you can preserve more wealth for future generations and secure a more meaningful legacy.

For example, certain types of trusts allow you to reduce your overall estate tax liability. A generation-skipping trust is one type. It lets you transfer assets to your grandchildren or even further descendants, skipping a generation. You can therefore minimize estate taxes by avoiding the generation in between from being taxed on the assets.

This can be a valuable tax planning strategy for individuals with significant assets who want to ensure that their wealth is passed down to future generations with minimal tax implications.

A trust can also help avoid gift taxes by allowing grantors to transfer assets to their heirs without incurring gift tax liability. When you place assets in a trust, you technically no longer own those assets. This means they are not subject to gift tax.

Work With Your Estate Planning Attorney

In creating a trust, you can expedite the distribution of assets, maintain privacy, and provide greater control and flexibility over how your assets are managed. This important estate planning document can also offer asset protection, facilitate charitable giving, and help minimize estate taxes for your family members.

We can help you navigate the intricacies and ensure that your plan aligns with your goals and aspirations. Contact us today to get assistance in meeting your estate planning needs.

About the Author

Nina Whitehurst

Attorney at Law Nina has been practicing law for over 30 years in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law She is currently licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee. Her Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating is the highest achievable: 5 stars in peer...


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