Here’s another example: What if Carl marries Ella and each has children from a prior marriage. Carl passes and leaves most of his wealth to a QTIP trust for Ella, so that she will have cash flow for life. She’s not allowed to name new beneficiaries who’ll get the QTIP assets after she dies. The QTIP assets will pass to the beneficiaries that Carl named, and those assets will be taxed in Ella’s estate. Both spouses can create QTIP trusts.

The trust creator has to authorize his or her executor to finalize your QTIP election after your death, and federal and state elections may have to be made to get full estate tax deferral. An estate planning attorney knows all about this. It’s important that your family understands the QTIP’s goals to alleviate conflict after your death. The QTIP allows your spouse to have lifetime distributions to maintain his or her lifestyle, and your children will inherit your wealth without having to worry that a stepparent will spend it all after your death.

But a QTIP trust may be a source of conflict, as the surviving spouse may want the trust fund to be invested for income, and the survivor can actually demand that the trustee sell assets that don’t produce revenue. The children will likely want the QTIP assets invested for growth. You need to select a trustee who can negotiate peace among beneficiaries. Tax deferral may also mean inheritance deferral, because if your spouse lives a long time after your death, your children will have to wait for a QTIP payout. Consider making some assets available for immediate bequests to descendants, or to provide for them with life insurance that will pay at your death.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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