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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Joint Revocable Trusts vs. Parallel Documents (cost saving vs. peace of mind)

Joint Revocable Trust: Lots of spouses opt to create a joint revocable trust. In many situations, it makes a lot of sense to do so:

First, in long term marriages, a lot of assets are owned jointly, so it can be an extra and unnecessary hassle to separate them. Second, the children are common, so the bequest of assets after death will be common. Third, there is little chance of divorce, so there is no need to separate the assets. Last, the couple's estate is below the federal tax threshold, so the actual ownership may not matter for tax purposes.

Separate Revocable Trusts: Of course, for quite a lot of other people the above assumptions do not hold true. For them, a joint revocable trust may be a disaster. First, for couples who are coming into a second (or third) marriage, the assets may not be jointly owned. There is no need to commingle them in a common trust. Second, some couples never get married. Third, the children may not be common, and the bequests after death are likely not to be the same. Fourth, if the couple separates or divorces, it can be much more difficult to untangle a common revocable trust. Finally, there are federal and state estate taxes, as well as federal and state capital gains taxes to consider. A separate revocable trust makes it much easier to trace the assets and to determine the basis and the value for filing of the returns.

There is no right answer to this question. For some families, the cost savings and convenience of a joint revocable trust may more important. For others, a wish to keep the assets separate may be much more prudent, despite the additional cost of a second trust.

Disclaimer: This article only offers general information.  Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions.  As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING


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