"Do I need a trust?" is one of the questions I get asked the most as an estate planning attorney. The answer is one of the most common answers an attorney will give: it depends. It depends on the value of the client's assets, what those assets are, and how they are titled. For example, if a client has a relatively small amount of cash in her bank account and her only large asset is a single property, a life estate deed might serve the same purpose as a trust and would be significantly cheaper than creating a trust. But if a client has multiple substantial assets, such as multiple properties or bank accounts with fairly substantial or substantial amounts of cash, a trust might make sense. Testamentary trusts--that is, trusts created in a will--are common options for couples. These trusts allow the surviving spouse to disclaim any property distributed from the predeceased spouse's estate and to have that property put in trust for his or her benefit.
There are various goals that people have for their estate plan, and no estate plan is identical. One of the most common goals, though, is to lower the taxable value of the estate. While trusts can be an effective means to that end, they are hardly the only one.
The goal of estate planning is to ensure your assets transition to your loved ones after your death in an efficient manner while maximizing tax savings. There is no one plan for everyone – it depends on you, your family, your assets and your wishes. Unfortunately, not everyone pays as much attention to their estate plan as they should or heeds the advice of their lawyer.