Irrevocable trusts have distinct characteristics that set them apart from revocable trusts. Once established, an irrevocable trust typically cannot be altered, amended, or revoked by the grantor without the consent of the beneficiaries or a court order. These characteristics do not seem to be beneficial to many people. So why do some people choose to give up control and utilize these trusts? Here are five common reasons:
- Estate Tax Reduction: One of the primary reasons for using irrevocable trusts is to reduce or eliminate estate taxes. By transferring assets into an irrevocable trust, those assets are generally no longer considered part of the grantor’s taxable estate, reducing the potential estate tax liability.
- Asset Protection: Irrevocable trusts can provide asset protection by placing assets beyond the reach of creditors, lawsuits, or other potential financial liabilities. Assets held in an irrevocable trust are no longer considered the property of the grantor and may be protected from claims against the grantor.
- Medicaid Planning: Irrevocable trusts can be used as part of Medicaid planning to help individuals qualify for Medicaid benefits while preserving grantor’s assets. Medicaid has strict asset limits, and transferring assets into an irrevocable trust can help individuals meet those requirements.
- Charitable Giving: Irrevocable trusts, such as Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) or Charitable Lead Trusts (CLTs), can facilitate charitable giving while providing great benefits to the grantor or their heirs.
- Minimizing Capital Gains Tax: Some irrevocable trusts, like Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRTs), can help minimize capital gains tax on appreciated assets, such as real estate.
There are many other unique benefits for such trusts. Of course, irrevocable trusts have all the benefits of a living trust, such as avoiding probate, control of asset distribution, privacy, etc. Not surprisingly, irrevocable trusts are the most important tools in sophisticated estate planning.