Paul Rabalais estate lawyer

The Amendable But Irrevocable Trust

Is it possible to amend, modify, or change the provisions of an irrevocable trust?

All trusts can be classified as either revocable or irrevocable. The #1 reason people create revocable trusts is to hold title to assets in a way that you keep total control but eliminate the attorney and court-involved probate process when you pass away. Quite a bit is written about using revocable living trusts to avoid probate, so that is not the topic of this post.

Irrevocable trusts, however, are created for many different reasons: avoid taxes, lawsuit protection, and nursing home protection, just to name a few.

The word "irrevocable" scares many consumers, but it may not need to. Someone can establish an "irrevocable" trust, yet reserve the right to modify certain terms of the trust after the trust is created.

Here's an example: Parent sets up a trust. Parent is referred to as the "Settlor." In the trust instrument, it states that "X" is the trustee of the trust. It further states that "Y" and "Z" are the principal beneficiaries of the trust. The trust states that the trustee may distribute principal to the principal beneficiaries during the lifetime of the Settlor. The trust instrument further provides that when the Settlor dies, the trustee shall terminate the trust and distribute the principal to the principal beneficiaries.

Then, the trust instrument further provides that the Settlor can replace the trustee, and the trust instrument also provides that the trustee can replace the principal beneficiaries. Now you have an irrevocable trust where the Settlor has expressly reserved the right to modify certain provisions of the trust, yet there are some provisions of the trust that the Settlor cannot, under any circumstances, modify.

Fueling this concern over the inflexibility of irrevocable trusts is the fact that back in the 1990's, most irrevocable trusts were set up to avoid the 55% estate tax on assets that exceeded $600,000 in value at death. Settlors of those irrevocable trusts almost never reserved the right to modify those trust provisions for fear that the "right to modify" would cause the trust assets to revert back to the estate of the Settlor.

But since we now have an $11.4 million estate tax exemption, and portability between spouses, married couples can exempt $22.8 million in assets from the estate tax. Moving assets out of the estate to avoid estate tax just isn't a concern any more.

Now, irrevocable trusts are established for a variety of reasons: yes, tax avoidance is one. But so is lawsuit protection, nursing home protection, and many other reasons. But you need to be very careful when you are attempting to take advantage of trusts and other legal strategies to gain these protections because the slightest alterations of wording can have adverse tax, creditor protection, and Medicaid eligibility consequences.

So, in summary, an irrevocable trust does not need to be as scary as it first sounds, due to the fact that you can reserve the right to modify certain provisions, but you will want to tread carefully.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Estate Planning Case Study: Married Couple with $3m Estate

While every individual and couple that engages in estate planning has a different set of circumstances - no two are the same, the following is a case study of a Louisiana couple that has accumulated some wealth, never engaged in estate planning before, has two adult children who are late 20's and early 30s, and wants to keep control of their estate, provide for the surviving spouse, preserve it for the kids, keep estate matters simple, and avoid tax and government interference.

Let's say that the couple owns a home in Louisiana and a condo on the beach in another state. The husband worked for a chemical company, built up his 401(k), and when he retired, he rolled over his 401(k) into his traditional IRA. They have a joint brokerage account, vehicles, and a boat. Total estate is $3,000,000.

Some of the issues we would discuss include:

(1) First Spouse Dies. We would discuss how they want to leave their estate to their spouse when the first spouse dies. Do they want to leave their estate in full ownership to their spouse? Do they want to leave their estate in trust for their spouse so that assets get preserved for the children after the surviving spouse dies? Or, since they live in Louisiana, do they want to leave usufruct to their spouse, giving their spouse an obligation to account to the kids at the termination of the usufruct? Each of these options has varied estate tax, income tax, and capital gains tax consequences. Gotta do this right the first time before the first spouse dies.

(2) Surviving Spouse Dies. Do they want to leave assets to their children outright or in trust? Do any children have special needs, the inability to handle a lump sum inheritance, marital issues, or some other issues that would warrant leaving the inheritance to a child in trust? Lots to discuss here.

(3) Who's In Charge When You Can't? Who should be primary and backup for Trustee, Executor, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, etc. We'd discuss the life-support machines decision.

(4) Taxes. We discuss the distribution rules for IRAs and retirement accounts and how those rules differ for spouse and non-spouses as beneficiaries. We'd discuss the step-up and double step-up in basis which can save the heirs a fortune when the sell your assets.

(5) Avoid Probate. We'd discuss the pros and cons of the "Will Based Plan" and the "Revocable Living Trust Based Plan," which can allow the surviving spouse and the children to avoid multiple probates in multiple states - given that the couple owns real estate in two states. The RLT Program would keep brokerage accounts from being frozen in the future.

Again, since very person is different - their objectives, their family, what they own, don't take this info and think that it perfectly applies to you. You need to work with the right estate planning attorney the first time so that problems don't surface later.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Louisiana Man Protects House Proceeds FOR Grandchildren and FROM Nursing Home Costs

Hoping you can benefit from my vlog by hearing stories about what others have done and then realizing you can do the same to protect what you have for yourself and your loved ones.

I'm working with a gentleman who just sold his house and will likely be renting for the rest of his life. He's handicapped and he has no family nearby that can help take care of him - he's convinced that if his condition worsens one day in the future, he'll need to reside in a nursing home.

He has three grandchildren that he adores. He wants to make sure that his money stays protected for his grandchildren to benefit from one day. When I inquired whether he was concerned about losing the money to the nursing home, he said that was his #1 concern.

So we are in the process of setting up a trust for him - a very particular kind of trust - so that if he does go to the nursing home, that his money is protected. Note that the typical "avoid probate revocable living trust" does NOT protect the money from nursing home expenses.

I told him he was being smart by planning ahead. Because of some of our federal and state regulations, it's paramount that you take advantage of legal strategies well before you get sick.

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Paul Rabalais
866-491-3884
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Offices all over south Louisiana