Many married couples want to protect their shared assets and leave a legacy for loved ones. For that reason, they may choose to establish a trust. However, there are several types of trust, each of which comes with its own benefits and disadvantages. If you are considering the establishment of a joint revocable trust, you may want to learn about the pros and cons of that option. An estate planning attorney can help you understand what to expect when setting up joint revocable trusts. If you want to learn more about your estate planning options, please consider scheduling a consultation with the experienced estate planning legal team at Loughlin Law, P.A., by calling (561) 677-8384 today.
What Is the Difference Between a Revocable Trust and an Irrevocable Trust?
All trusts are legal agreements between a grantor and trustee, which “must be formed under state law,” according to the Internal Revenue Service. The main difference between a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust lies in their relative degree of flexibility. The terms of a revocable trust can be changed by the grantor at any point during their lifetime. The grantor also maintains the right to terminate the trust entirely if they so choose. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot be modified once established. Irrevocable trusts offer some estate tax planning and creditor protection benefits, while revocable trusts provide more flexibility to modify or revoke the terms.
What Are the Benefits of a Joint Revocable Trust?
Since maintaining a joint trust can be simpler than maintaining separate ones for each spouse, many married couples choose that option. There is no requirement to move any assets into separate accounts while using a revocable trust because ownership is divided between the pair. Maintaining one trust instead of two can help save time and money on administrative expenditures.
An advantage a joint trust has in common with many types of trust is that it can help to avoid the expensive and lengthy probate process. After a person passes away, their assets are typically distributed to beneficiaries according to their Last Will and Testament. Depending on how a trust is set up, assets that remain in the trust may be exempt from the probate process, so that the beneficiaries can receive them without delay.
For those who want privacy, a joint trust may be an especially appealing option. During probate, a person’s will becomes a public record, meaning anyone can access information about the assets and beneficiaries. With a joint revocable trust, those assets and all other information remain protected from the public. Finally, a joint trust can also reduce paperwork at tax time. A separate trust tax return must be filed annually when a trust becomes irrevocable. However, this does not apply to a joint revocable trust if one spouse is still alive, helping to simplify the tax filing process and reducing the administrative burden of maintaining a trust.
Should Married Couples Have Separate Revocable Trusts?
Whether married couples should have separate revocable trusts depends on their circumstances and preferences. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and each couple’s situation will be unique. Many couples choose to have separate revocable trusts because they can make independent decisions regarding their assets. Often, couples may choose separate revocable trusts if one spouse has more assets than the other person or if either spouse has children from another marriage. Separate revocable trusts can provide some asset protection if the couple ever separates or files for divorce.
Choosing a trust is an important decision, and both individuals should make decisions based on their financial goals, preferences, and unique life circumstances. Reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney at Loughlin Law, P.A. to learn about the options for a trust.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Joint Revocable Trust?
While a joint revocable trust can confer plenty of benefits, there are also possible detractions. Some potential downsides couples may want to consider include:
Loss of Control
With joint revocable trusts, both spouses must agree on all asset decisions. This requirement can often limit each spouse’s control over the shared assets held in the trust, leading to conflicts or disagreements.
Once a joint trust is established, it can be hard to make changes or adjustments to even a revocable trust agreement without permission from the other spouse, which can be a disadvantage. If one spouse has a change in financial or personal circumstances that requires a modification to the trust, they would need permission to make changes.
Potential for Creditors
If one spouse has numerous debts or is facing legal judgments, assets in a joint trust may be vulnerable to creditors. With a joint trust, this vulnerability may be shared even though the financial liabilities were incurred by only one person.
Establishing a joint trust can be a complex process that many couples prefer to undertake with the assistance of an experienced attorney. Along with that, creating this trust for an estate plan will require additional time and costs.
Should a Married Couple Have One Trust or Two?
Once again, choosing any trust will depend on the couple’s goals, estate planning needs, and preferences. Setting up one joint trust allows the couple to manage their assets throughout their lifetimes easily. They can work together to create a comprehensive plan that protects their assets and provides for their family after death.
On the other hand, maintaining separate trusts can provide greater control to each individual, along with commensurate flexibility concerning the assets contained in trust. While most couples never plan to separate, a joint trust may become an issue in the event of a divorce.
What Happens to a Joint Trust When One Person Dies?
When one grantor of a joint revocable trust passes away, the trust will typically become irrevocable, meaning no one can change the terms of the trust. The surviving spouse will usually become the trust’s sole trustee and will have full control over the trust assets. The deposited assets will pass to one or more beneficiaries upon the owner’s death per the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The trust agreement will typically instruct how the trust assets should be distributed upon the first spouse’s death. These instructions may include:
- Beneficiary designations
- Distribution instructions
- Investment instructions
- Tax instructions
- Trustee instructions
Couples wanting to establish a trust may want to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to find a suitable option.
Work With an Experienced Pennsylvania Estate Planning Attorney
Whether you want to establish a joint revocable trust or set up separate ones, consider all the benefits and disadvantages of these options. With joint revocable trusts, all decisions will need to be made together as a couple, which might not be a realistic option for all partnerships. However, these trusts can also be easier to manage and establish than other choices. If you want to learn more about joint revocable trusts as you prepare your estate plan, please consider scheduling an appointment with the dedicated and compassionate estate planning team at Loughlin Law, P.A. by calling 561-677-8384.