Trusts and Trust Administration

Trusts can be used for many different estate planning purposes.  Steiger Tax Law can review your goals and draft an appropriate trust with asset protection, probate avoidance and tax avoidance in mind.  Below is an overview of different trusts, their purpose and considerations.  Key terms to consider include revocable and irrevocable.  A revocable trust generally allows the settlor of the trust or a defined person or persons under the trust terms to change the terms of the trust.  An irrevocable trust generally does not allow for revision or changes to the terms of the trust without court supervision and under limited circumstances.  The settlor of the trust is the person or persons who fund the trust.  The trustee of the trust manages or administers the terms of the trust and generally controls management of the trust assets, determines distributions, and is responsible for ensuring tax returns and other administrative activities are carried out to preserve the trust.  The beneficiaries are individuals or entities like charities that receive distributions of the income or principal of the trust.

Revocable Grantor Trust or "Living Trust"

One of the most common estate planning trusts is the revocable grantor trust commonly referred to as a "living trust".  The settlor, or owner of the trust, typically has complete control over this type of trust during the settlor's lifetime.  The settlor may revoke the trust while alive and change the trust terms without court supervision.  Upon the death of the settlor, the trust generally becomes irrevocable and the named trustee then administers the trust according to the terms of the trust.  A careful review of the needs of the beneficiaries should be performed to ensure that the purpose of the trust is achieved.  Importantly, assets held in the trust do not become part of the probate estate and the trust is generally administered outside of probate.  Clients must take care to properly transfer and title assets in the name of the trust to avoid probate.

The income of a revocable grantor trust is taxed to the settlor of the trust.  For practical purposes, this means that the trust is disregarded as a separate taxable entity for income tax purposes while the settlor is alive.  Planning is required to determine the tax consequences of the trust upon the settlor's death.  Depending on the type of income earned, tax planning may be necessary to avoid excessive taxation of the trust and reduced value to the beneficiaries.  

Domestic Asset Protection Trust

Michigan clients looking to protect assets from future creditors may utilize a domestic asset protection trust.  The domestic asset protection trust is a recent creation of under Michigan statutory law.  This type of trust is an irrevocable trust.  

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