Types of trusts and their uses

One of the most complicated parts of life is actually deciding how to best pass your assets on after your death. You worked hard to earn what you have, so it's only natural to want to preserve as much of that from the government's grasp as possible.

For many people, that means using some form of trust -- or possibly several -- to hold their assets and (eventually) pass them on to the next generation.

But all trusts are not built the same. Here are some of the most common trusts you might encounter and why they're useful:

Living trusts

Fully revocable, you can fund this trust and still use what's in it while you're alive. Only once you die will the trust and its contents pass to a beneficiary.

Irrevocable trusts

Once funded, this kind of trust can't be changed or revoked -- nor can assets be moved back into your possession. Because of this, they have enormous tax benefits and are often preferred to pass large inheritances on.

Charitable trusts

Maybe you don't have any close relatives that you want to inherit your assets -- or maybe you just want part of your estate to improve the world. A charitable trust can help you do something good and avoid both estate taxes and gift taxes.

Spendthrift trusts

Do you have a troubled heir that you love dearly? You want to provide for that heir, but you're afraid that access to so much money would actually make his or her condition worse, especially if he or she has struggled with addiction, gambling or mental health issues. A spendthrift trust more tightly controls how much money your heir can access at once and won't allow him or her to dissipate the funds prematurely.

These are just some of the possible trusts that you may find useful. If you're ready to talk about the future, talk to an estate planning attorney about your goals.

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