Estate planning for couples in a second or later marriage can be tricky, particularly when one spouse is significantly wealthier than the other. One solution for allowing the well-to-do spouse to maintain control of his or her assets but keep the other spouse happy is the Lifetime QTIP Trust. In this issue, you will learn what a Lifetime QTIP is and the multiple benefits this special type of trust can provide to you and your spouse if you have lopsided estates.
In the estate planning world a “QTIP Trust” has nothing to do with those handy cotton swabs used for cleaning ears, applying cosmetics, or making children’s crafts. Instead it refers to “Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust,” which is a fancy term for a type of trust that allows a wealthier spouse to transfer an unrestricted amount of assets into trust for the benefit of a less wealthy spouse free from estate and gift taxes.
Many married couples have estate plans that make use of a QTIP Trust after the death of one spouse using the so-called “AB Trust” strategy. After the first spouse dies, the “B Trust” holds an amount equal to the federal estate tax exemption ($5.43 million in 2015) and the “A Trust” holds the excess. Under this strategy the “A Trust” is in fact a “QTIP Trust” which qualifies for the unlimited marital deduction, meaning that property passing into the trust will not be subject to estate taxes until the surviving spouse dies.
Here is an example: Fred and Susan have both had previous marriages. Fred has two children from his prior marriage and Susan has three, and their estates are disproportionate – Fred is worth $2 million and Sue is worth $10 million. With the AB Trust strategy, if Susan dies first the B Trust is funded with $5.43 million and the A Trust is funded with $4.57 million. No estate tax will be due at Susan’s death since the B Trust uses up her federal estate tax exemption and the A Trust qualifies for the unlimited marital deduction. In addition, when Fred later dies, the A and B Trusts can be drafted so that what is left passes exclusively to Susan’s three children (or whomever else she chooses, much to the chagrin of Fred’s children).
What if instead of creating and funding the QTIP Trust after Susan dies, she creates and funds the QTIP Trust for Fred’s benefit with tax free gifts while she is still alive? This is the “Lifetime QTIP Trust.”
Planning Tip: QTIP Trusts created during life or after death must meet certain requirements to qualify for the unlimited marital deduction.
While at first glance QTIP Trusts may appear to be restrictive due to their multiple technical requirements, in reality they are quite flexible and will work well in a variety of situations.
Outright gifts to your spouse during life or after death lead to total loss of control. If you and your spouse have lopsided estates and families from prior marriages, the problem is exacerbated by the difference in your wealth – while the well-to-do spouse will be just fine if the less wealthy spouse dies first, the opposite is not true. If you and your spouse are in this situation, a Lifetime QTIP Trust offers the following benefits:
Planning Tip: As with other types of estate planning, Lifetime QTIP Trusts are not “one size fits all” and must be specifically tailored to each couple’s unique family dynamics and financial situation. In addition, only an attorney experienced in implementing advanced estate planning techniques should draft your Lifetime QTIP Trust.
While a Lifetime QTIP Trust is a good alternative to outright gifts, not all married couples will benefit from this type of planning. Please call our firm if you and your spouse are in a second or later marriage or have uneven assets. We will help you determine what will work best for your family.