If you are like most people, you have the most common type of will, the “I Love You Will.” It says, “I leave all my assets to my spouse, and upon the death of my spouse, our assets go to our lovely children.” This seems straight forward and protective enough, but is it?
This year, the federal exemption for estate taxes is $5,340,000 per person. A married couple can therefore leave up to $10,680,000 to the next generation WITHOUT incurring federal estate taxes. This means that the vast majority of households will have no federal estate taxes to contend with and therefore, many families have chosen to forego sophisticated Estate Planning. They believe, “If we don’t have to worry about taxes, why do we need anything more than a simple will?”
The truth is that taxes are not the only threat to your estate and Asset Protection is NOT just for the super wealthy. Strong consideration should be given to protecting your valuable assets. Suppose you have managed to accumulate an estate totaling $3,000,000, consisting of your home, investments, IRAs and life insurance. Let’s examine two of the most common potential pitfalls of failing to protect your assets properly.
Although it is an unpleasant thought, what would happen if your son or daughter were to get married and then, some day, get divorced? In America, over 50% of first marriages end up in divorce and almost 60% of second marriages fail as well. It is entirely possible that the assets you spent a lifetime accumulating could end up with your future ex-son or daughter-in-law, or, as we say in the trade, a future “outlaw.”
Another unattractive but realistic scenario is a situation in which a spouse passes away, leaving all of the assets to the surviving spouse. What would happen if the surviving spouse remarries and subsequently dies or gets divorced? Without the proper planning, some or all of the family assets could end up with the new wife or husband, thereby inadvertently disinheriting the children.
If you are anything like the people I speak to at my seminars across the country, your answer to both of these scenarios is probably, “NO WAY DO I WANT THAT TO HAPPEN!” If this is how you feel, then you need to incorporate Asset Protection into your Estate Plan. Again, most people think Asset Protection is just for the super wealthy, but that is not true. Almost everyone can benefit from putting a “moat” around their assets to protect them from future “outlaws.”
Let’s review two steps you can take to design a trust that protects the assets FOR your children, not FROM them:
Consider leaving assets to your spouse in what is called a QTIP (Qualified Terminable Interest Property) trust.
- In simplest terms, this trust gives your spouse all income generated for the remainder of the spouse’s life and access to principal under certain circumstances. Thereafter, the trust ensures that the assets ultimately go to the children of your marriage and NOT any future ex-spouse.
Consider leaving your assets in an Asset Protection trust for your children forever.
This accomplishes two important goals:
- As with most trusts, you can appoint a “friendly” and “trustworthy” trustee to do the right thing by your kids. In many cases, you can appoint more than one trustee, and you can even have your children be trustees for each other.
- A second benefit of an Asset Protection Trust is that it may not be necessary to take money out of the trust at all. Most trusts are structured to allow children to receive income and principal at ages 25, 30, and 35. However, what happens if they get divorced at 40? Depending on how they have handled their money, it is entirely possible that the future “outlaw” could end up with half of “your” money. Many folks don’t realize that a trust can own almost anything. You can buy a house, a car, a business or mutual funds in a trust. And, you don’t need to take the money out of the trust in order to invest it. This way, if anything goes wrong, the money is safeguarded.
An Asset Protection Trust is like having a “moat” around your money, protecting it from the claims of disgruntled ex-spouses, creditors and even the IRS. Why wouldn’t you consider protecting your valuable estate?
Learn about the Wealth Preservation Solutions Estate Planning and Asset Protection Process.