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What Are the Disadvantages of a Trust?


Trusts represent what can be an invaluable tool for managing personal and familial wealth. There are specific uses, drawbacks and benefits of trusts, but it’s important to understand what your specific purpose is before using one. The ability to have a degree of control over your assets, even after death or a potential reduction in tax liabilities are a few compelling reasons. While we will provide guidance in this article,  the advice of a financial advisor that is applied to your personal situation can be invaluable when navigating complex tools like trusts.

What Trusts Are Used For

Trusts, in their simplest form, are fiduciary arrangements that enable a third party, aptly named the trustee, to manage assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. This complex legal framework primarily serves three functions: estate planning, wealth protection and tax planning.

In estate planning, trusts help manage wealth distribution after the grantor’s death, ensuring their assets are allocated according to their wishes. For example, a trust can prevent a minor child from receiving a large sum of money all at once or specifying funds for specific purposes such as education or healthcare. 

They also provide an effective means for wealth protection, safeguarding assets from potential threats, such as lawsuits or creditors. It protects everything that you would like to pass on to your children or other beneficiaries without others being able to stake a claim to your assets. 

Lastly, trusts can be potent tools for tax planning, helping to minimize tax liabilities while maximizing wealth for beneficiaries. For example, the right trust setup can help you avoid estate taxes or ensure assets are not subject to probate. 

A financial advisor can further guide you in understanding how the different uses of trusts may apply to your own unique circumstance.

Disadvantages of Opening a Trust

A financial advisor explaining the disadvantages of using a trust for estate planning.

Despite their benefits, opening a trust comes with its own set of challenges. Trusts often require substantial initial and ongoing costs and can be difficult to maintain. Let’s take a look at the biggest disadvantages, or cons, to using a trust in your estate planning.

  • Setup Fees: The initial setup of a trust can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or even more, depending on its complexity and attorney’s fees. Furthermore, there are recurring administrative costs such as trustee fees, tax preparation fees, and legal fees. 
  • Ongoing Record-Keeping: Trusts also require meticulous record-keeping and can be complex to understand and manage. There is a strict legal framework that must be adhered to, which can be daunting for many. 
  • Your Assets Might Not Be Protected: Another crucial point to note is that not all trusts offer protection from creditors. For instance, in revocable trusts, the assets are not protected from creditors as the grantor retains control of the assets. 
  • Potential Tax Burdens: Finally, trusts can carry potential tax burdens. Trusts may be subject to a higher income tax rate than individual taxpayers in certain scenarios. 

Types of Trusts

Trusts come in various forms, each with its own set of rules and benefits. Here are some of the most common that you should be aware of:

  • Revocable trusts can be altered or canceled by the grantor during their lifetime, making them a flexible option for those who may change their minds about how their assets should be distributed. 
  • Irrevocable trusts cannot be changed or terminated without the beneficiary’s permission. These are great for those aiming to minimize estate taxes, as their assets are not included in the taxable estate.
  • Testamentary trusts are created by a will and come into existence after the grantor’s death. These are ideal for those who want to control how their estate is distributed after their demise. 
  • Living trusts are established during the grantor’s life and can be either revocable or irrevocable. These offer a way to ensure avoid probate.
  • Charitable trusts are set up to benefit a particular charity or the general public. If philanthropy holds a specific place in your heart, it can provide you with immediate tax benefits.

You may want to carefully analyze each type of trust or ask a professional before deciding which one is going to best help you achieve your goals. 

Bottom Line

A couple deciding if the disadvantage of a trust are okay to still use one.

Deciding whether to open a trust largely depends on your personal situation. A family with a large estate and complex needs may find substantial benefits in a trust. However, for a single individual with a simple estate, the costs and complexity of a trust may not be justified. It’s essential to seek professional advice when considering such a significant financial decision. The potential implications of opening a trust on your financial future are not a decision to be taken lightly. 

Tips for Estate Planning

  • The right estate plan will take into account the full range of your financial situation. You’ll want to make sure nothing is forgotten and that you have your assets protected. An experienced financial advisor can help you do just that and make sure your unique needs are met. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now
  • When you’re looking at your choices for creating an estate plan, it’s important to make sure that you’ve completed all the right things. Try using SmartAsset’s estate planning checklist to see how much you’ve completed. 

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