An Overview of Different Types of Trusts in Washington D.C.

Estate Planning in Washington D.C.

In estate planning, trusts are resourceful tools to protect assets and ensure financial support to a surviving spouse, family members, and loved ones. Different types of trusts are designed to address unique circumstances. Understanding the different trust options available is essential to make informed decisions about your financial future.


What Is a Trust?

A trust is an estate planning tool that permits the trustee (third party) to hold assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. It creates a virtual container for assets, making the transfer of assets much more straightforward and hands-free. Beneficiaries can gain access to assets faster with a trust than if transferred via a will.

Assets that can be transferred through a trust include real estate, stocks, bonds, a life insurance policy, certain business assets, personal property, antiques, etc.

Enumerated below are the different types of trusts.

Revocable Living Trust

Revocable living trusts are created during the grantor’s life. This type of trust allows the grantor to maintain or control all trust assets. The grantor can also modify or revoke the trust at any time. Most people set up a revocable trust as part of their estate plan while still alive to ensure efficient funds transfer to their beneficiaries.

Assets held in a revocable living trust at the time of death of the grantor avoid the probate process.

Irrevocable Trust

The distinctive characteristic of irrevocable trusts is that the creator cannot amend the trust’s provisions. The creator cannot transfer irrevocable trust funds to benefit anyone other than the stated beneficiary. Sometimes, the irrevocable trust document may permit certain amendments if circumstances in the beneficiary’s life justify or require it. An exception also exists if the trust document’s terms expressly allow it.

Assets in an irrevocable trust at the time of death of the grantor also avoid the probate process, creating a smooth method to transfer assets to the beneficiary. The grantor essentially controls how and when beneficiaries receive their inheritance.

Testamentary Trusts

A testamentary trust is created post-death and based on the last will. The last will is usually detailed enough to create a testamentary trust. A significant advantage of this type of trust is that it can be edited or modified numerous times during the grantor’s lifetime. However, the trust cannot take effect until the grantor’s death.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT)

Charitable trusts, sometimes called charitable remainder trusts, are set up to hold and manage resources to benefit a charitable cause or public purpose. They are typically created to advance philanthropic objectives. These may be social, educational, scientific, or even religious objectives.

A charitable remainder trust is funded with assets donated by the person setting up the trust. These assets could include cash, real estate, securities, etc. The trust’s assets qualify for an estate tax exemption, much the same as donations to charity are exempt from income tax.

Spendthrift Trust

Spendthrift trusts protect the assets within them from being squandered or seized by creditors. This type of trust restricts the beneficiary’s ability to access the trust’s principal and income, providing asset protection.

A spendthrift trust is advantageous if the beneficiary has financial troubles, a lawsuit, or any other circumstances that could lead to creditors attempting to collect debts.

Special Needs Trusts

special needs trust provides for the comfort of a family member with special needs without jeopardizing their eligibility to avail government benefits. When a person receives an inheritance or financial gifts, it could affect their eligibility for government assistance and help.

While a person with special needs can benefit from a special needs trust as long they are not the trustee, this type involves intricate legal regulations at both federal and state levels. Creating a special needs trust requires careful consideration and legal experience, so involving a special needs planning attorney may be a good idea.

Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRT)

A qualified personal residence trust allows the grantor to transfer a residence into an irrevocable trust while retaining control and possession of the property for a specified period. Once that time is up, the property transfers to the trust’s beneficiaries without being subject to estate taxes.

This type of trust can benefit estate planning, especially if the property’s value is expected to be appreciated. It also allows the grantor to remain in their home and enjoy its benefits during the specified period.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT)

An irrevocable life insurance trust is an excellent estate planning tool for high-net-worth individuals. It helps in reducing the taxable value of the individual’s estate by removing life insurance proceeds from the gross estate. The trust allows the beneficiaries to receive funds without any income tax.

An ILIT provides a tax-efficient way to provide financial security and support to loved ones after your death. Life insurance proceeds are generally not subject to income tax but may be included in the taxable estate if the policy owner is also the insured. An ILIT helps mitigate this risk by separating the policy from the estate.

How an Estate Planning Attorney in Washington, D.C., Can Help You

Creating a trust is an excellent method to protect your assets and make the property transfer easy for your beneficiaries. With Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, you can avoid probate and save your heirs from court fees, undue estate taxes, and immense stress. Our experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorneys can help you create a trust or any other legal documents to ensure your loved ones are cared for after your passing.

Whether it is a revocable living trust, irrevocable trust, or any other type of trust, our team will guide you through the process and provide personalized solutions to meet your unique needs. Contact Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, today to schedule a free consultation and start planning for the future of your estate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Minimum Age Requirement to Create a Trust?

The minimum age requirement to create a trust varies based on the jurisdiction and the type of trust created. The minimum age requirement for creating a trust in the United States is generally 18. However, there are also some other critical conditions to keep in mind:

  1. Capacity to Form a Trust: The creator or grantor must have the legal and mental capacity to understand the trust’s nature, terms, and implications.
  2. Property Ownership: The creator should also have legal ownership or the legal right to control and manage the assets they transfer into the trust.
  3. Trustee Appointment: If the trust involves a minor as a beneficiary, there needs to be a designated trustee responsible for managing the trust assets until the minor reaches a certain age or a specific condition is met.
  4. Court Involvement: When a minor is the sole beneficiary of a trust, court approval might be required to protect the minor’s interests.

Are Trusts Only for the Wealthy?

No, trusts are not only for the wealthy. Trusts are often associated with persons with high net worth. However, they can serve different purposes for people from various financial backgrounds. Some common reasons why individuals might consider establishing a trust, regardless of their wealth, are:

  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Avoiding Probate
  • Managing Inheritances
  • Tax Planning
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Real Estate Planning

There are different types of trusts, each with a definitive purpose and benefits. Some types of trusts have higher costs and complexities. Others might be less complex and can be used effectively by people with modest assets.

Consider consulting an experienced D.C. trusts lawyer to determine if a trust suits your situation and financial capacity.