Trusts are a common estate planning tool and are used to keep assets out of a probated estate or to reduce an estate tax burden. Trusts can also be used to protect one’s heirs. There are instances when it may not be in a person’s own best interests to inherit funds directly.
A direct inheritance may prove detrimental in the case of an heir with special needs. The families of individuals with special needs have often arranged their finances such that the individual will be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and other public benefits. These programs are needs-based, which means that if the individual’s income or assets rise above a certain level, the benefits could be lost. In a case like this, a direct inheritance could do more harm than good, and a solution may be a special needs trust or supplemental needs trust, which can be used to provide for certain supplemental needs of an individual while preserving their eligibility for benefits.
In other cases, a person planning their estate may wish to consider certain circumstances in the lives of their heirs that could put an inheritance at risk. This may include a variety of situations. Some heirs may be unlikely to be able to manage money in their own best interests, due to their youth, their spending habits, or circumstances such as a substance abuse issue. There may be reasons that an heir is likely to become a defendant in a lawsuit. In other cases, if an heir divorces, then the divorced spouse may claim a share of assets inherited directly. In the case of a second marriage when there are children from a prior marriage, a person planning their estate may wish to ensure that their grandchildren are provided for, not their child’s second spouse.
A qualified estate planning attorney can design an asset protection trust or spendthrift trust to protect your family’s assets against such risks. The details of the trust and its power to protect assets depend on individual circumstances and state and federal law. Generally, a trust can be used to restrict a beneficiary’s ability to assign his or her interest in the trust to another person and restrict the rights of creditors to reach the assets of the trust. However, it is important to recognize that, depending on applicable law, the trust assets may be able to be reached to satisfy certain obligations, such as child support or taxes. To learn more, meet with an estate planning attorney at Littman Krooks.
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