Keep Spouse No.2 Happy

How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy

Estate planning for couples in a second or subsequent marriage can be tricky, especially if their estates are disproportionate. One solution for allowing the well-to-do spouse to maintain control of his or her property and wealth–but to also maintain marital harmony–is the “Lifetime QTIP Trust.”

In the estate planning world a “QTIP Trust” (qualified terminable interest trust) is a type of trust that allows a wealthier spouse to transfer an unrestricted amount of assets into trust for the benefit of their less wealthy spouse free from estate and gift taxes.

A common estate planning strategy for high net worth couples has been to make use of a QTIP Trust after the first death under the “AB Trust” structure: After the first spouse dies the “B Trust” holds an amount equal to the federal estate tax exemption 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.

But what if instead of creating and funding the QTIP Trust after death, the wealthy spouse creates and funds the QTIP Trust for their spouse’s benefit with tax free gifts while the wealthy spouse is alive? This is the “Lifetime QTIP Trust.”

Outright gifts to your spouse during life or after death can lead to total loss of control. If you and your spouse have families from prior marriages and lopsided estates, 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:

  • The wealthy spouse can create and fund a Lifetime QTIP Trust without using any gift tax exemption.
  • During the less wealthy spouse’s lifetime he or she will receive all of the trust income and may be
    entitled to receive trust principal for limited purposes.
  • When the less wealthy spouse dies the assets remaining in the trust will be included in his or her
    estate, thereby making use of the less wealthy spouse’s otherwise unused federal estate tax exemption.
  • If the less wealthy spouse dies first, the remaining trust property can continue in an asset-protected,
    lifetime trust for the wealthy spouse’s benefit (subject to applicable state law) and the remainder will be
    excluded from the wealthy spouse’s estate when he or she dies.
  • After both you and your spouse die, the balance of the trust can be designed to pass to the wealthy
    spouse’s children and grandchildren or other beneficiaries chosen by the wealthy spouse.

As with other types of estate planning tools and strategies, Lifetime QTIP Trusts are not “one size fits all”
and must be specifically tailored to each couple’s unique goals, family dynamics, and financial situation. Reach out if we can help.