Trusts Simply Explained (Trust Me)
By Greg McIntyre
Hey this is Greg McIntyre, the elder law guy coming to you from the observation deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois. From here you see the whole city and beautiful Lake Michigan.
There’s a lot of wealth out there. The buildings, the families that have built here, I guarantee they have and are using trusts to control their assets well into the future. The Kennedys are a great example of a family whose trusts take care of their wealth and family. Now, you can do that and on a smaller scale than the Kennedys.
So very simply, what is a Trust?
A Trust is no different than a drinking glass. It holds your assets, directing exactly how it will be distributed. The Trust protects your assets from say a civil lawsuit. If you’re in a car wreck and you get sued, and your car insurance didn’t cover it and so they came after your personal assets, a standard Trust will protect your money against that attack. However, in a Medicaid situation where you need long term healthcare, if you have a living trust or a revocable trust, the government would still deem you in control of that money.
Wills and Trusts
The main difference between leaving things by ‘Will’ or setting up a Trust is, a Will has everything go through probate, which means they are subject to liens and things of that nature. A Trust will avoid that and the entire probate process.
Dead Hand Control
Another important thing to know is Trusts allow you to, what my law professor used to call ‘Dead Hand Control,’ or control from the grave. I picture a hand sticking up out the grave with the remote control in it, controlling everything well into the future, in perpetuity.
You can set up Trusts that provide for your grandchildren to go to college. Then distribute some of the money after college, say 25 years old, and some at 30 after they’ve reached more maturity, and maybe a final dispersal at 35.
And you can donate to charities over time. You can set up a charitable Trust to help fund a library if you wish.
Revocable or Irrevocable
The very top Trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. An Irrevocable Trust means you give up the money and appoint a trustee.
Trusts at their base have a trustee, usually a trusted family member or a company. Trust companies will manage your assets for you. They will generally have a separate tax id number if they’re irrevocable trusts. Usually if they’re revocable trusts, you can revoke it, you can put money into it, take money out, cancel it, break the glass so to speak, and you probably want to use your same tax id number, social security number for that trust because then you won’t have to prepare a separate tax return for the trust. If it’s an Irrevocable Trust, prepare a separate tax return for it. I work with a great accountant who can help you do that.
Trust Beneficiaries are the recipients of money from the Trust. They will get both the Trust income and the Trust corpus. The Trust property you put in it, (the corpus, the body of the Trust), whatever is earned from that, say your investments, that’s called the Trust income, and is be distributed to the beneficiaries upon your instructions.
Just be aware
I meet with family members all the time who say, I have a trust and we’re ready to file for Medicaid to take care of my spouse, they’re protected.
If you have what’s known as a family trust or a revocable trust, it is not protected against that Medicaid situation or long term care situation. That’s where long term care insurance and legal planning become extremely important.
To fund or not to fund that is the question.
I see a lot of trusts, and many times people are under the wrong impression. They think because they are schedule A of the trust, or their list of property on the trust says they have a house in the trust, or money, bank accounts and investments in the trust, that it’s all okay. But I have to explain, that we’re looking at your deed, it’s still in your name, your car title or your bank accounts are in your name, it’s absolutely not in the trust, they are under a false impression that they funded their trust. So, literally the glass is empty, it has nothing in it.
To put the ice in the glass, or the property in the Trust, you have to title those deeds in the name of the trust, the deed to the trust in the name of the trust. Even car titles, now I’m not a huge fan of vehicles in trust but you can do that. The bank accounts need to be in the name of the trust. It could have a separate tax id number for those bank accounts, and should if it’s an irrevocable trust that has a separate tax id, that we get from the government for you.
I hate to see a trust unfunded. I want it protecting assets, doing its job, instead of a mad scramble to fund it, or to discover too late that it is unfunded.
If you have questions about whether your trust has been funded or not, should be funded or not, then come see me. I would be glad to do a free consult if you mention this blog post.
Trust Funding Classes
I am going to start trust funding classes at our office on a regular basis on Saturday mornings. They will begin sometime in September, and we can talk about the nuts and bolts of trust funding. You can bring your trust, or if you are just interested, we can put that out in our e-newsletter.
Go to mcelderlaw.com and sign up for our e-newsletter or follow us at lawyergreg on twitter, facebook and youtube. If you get the e-newsletter and I advise that you do, I will give you the trust funding class for free.
This is Greg McIntyre, the elder law guy signing off 94 floors up in Chicago.
Make it a great day,
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
“We help seniors maintain their lifestyle and preserve their legacies.”
PO Box 165
Shelby, NC 28151–0165