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Trusts–No Panacea To Retaining Family Wealth

When passing wealth to your kids, consider creating a trust to limit the later generation’s ability to tap into the principal. Several astute readers suggested this strategy after my recent column citing research that shows 90% of inherited wealth is gone by the third generation.

There is no question that a trust, done correctly, can go a long way to preserve wealth after the death of the wealth accumulator. Let’s explore what “done correctly” means.

1. Trust law is complex. Engage an accountant and attorney with strong skills and expertise in trusts.

2. Be sure the assets you intend to go into the trust will actually transfer.

Retirement plans like IRA’s, 401(k)’s, and profit sharing plans will pass to whomever you listed as the beneficiary. This must be the trust. In addition, the trust must include a number of special provisions in order for a retirement plan to be distributed according to your wishes and not as a fully taxable lump sum.

Annuities, insurance policies, and accounts with a TOD (transfer on death) clause will also pass to the named beneficiary.

Assets held in joint tenancy will not pass to the trust. Many married couples jointly own most of their major assets, such as the family home, investment real estate, brokerage accounts, or bank accounts.

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