Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

How Can a Trust Own an Annuity?


Annuities can offer a steady stream of income when you need it most, while trusts provide a structured way to manage and protect your assets for the benefit of your loved ones. But what happens when you consider combining these two powerful tools? Can a trust own an annuity, and if so, what are the implications for your financial strategy? A trust can own an annuity and it has some benefits. If you’re not sure whether it’s right for you, consider working with a financial advisor.

Can a Trust Own an Annuity?

When it comes to whether a trust can own an annuity, the answer lies in the fine print of the trust agreement. If it’s allowed, a trust can add an annuity to its investment portfolio. The trustee must manage the trust’s assets according to the trust’s guidelines and with the beneficiaries’ best interests at heart. While it’s possible, only your trust will be able to dictate whether it can own the annuity.

Introducing an annuity into a trust’s asset mix can bring a host of legal and tax considerations into play. For instance, the transfer for value rule could come into effect, and the way the annuity’s income is taxed might change based on the trust’s framework. Moreover, designating the trust as the annuity’s beneficiary impacts estate and income tax planning, highlighting the importance of seeking professional advice to navigate these complexities.

Does the Type of Trust Matter?

Considering the type of trust you have takes on special importance when it comes to owning an annuity. For example, if an irrevocable trust holds an annuity, it might benefit from creditor protection and be kept out of your taxable estate, which could be a savvy move tax-wise when you’re no longer around. However, this same benefit can make it challenging to change the annuity or its beneficiaries later on due to the trust’s inflexible nature.

Alternatively, a revocable trust offers the freedom to adjust the annuity or its beneficiaries without too much hassle. While this flexibility is a plus, it also means that the annuity is likely counted as part of your estate, potentially leading to a hefty tax bill.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Putting an Annuity in a Trust

A man looking up the benefits and drawbacks of putting an annuity in a trust.

One of the most significant advantages of a trust-owned annuity is the level of asset protection it affords. Trusts can be designed to shield assets from creditors — entities to whom money is owed and legal judgments, which is particularly important for individuals concerned about preserving their wealth for future generations.

Grantors also have the ability to define distribution terms, which can be particularly beneficial for minors or financially inexperienced beneficiaries. This will allow grantors to structure the financial security of their heirs by imposing conditions like age thresholds or educational achievements before distributions are made.

Conversely, you may not want a trust-owned annuity if the transfer-for-value rule could potentially trigger adverse tax consequences upon the annuity’s sale or transfer, or if the trust’s objectives don’t align with the features and benefits of the annuity.

Tax Implications of a Trust-Owned Annuity

Unlike individual annuity owners, who typically enjoy tax-deferred growth until funds are withdrawn, trusts may not receive the same advantage. The annuity’s generated income is often taxed at the trust’s income tax rate, which can be notably higher than an individual taxpayer’s rate. As an example, an individual may avoid the highest marginal tax bracket until they accumulate significant income, whereas trusts can reach the highest tax bracket with much less income, potentially leading to a heavier tax burden if earnings are not distributed to beneficiaries.

The tax treatment of distributions from a trust-owned annuity also deviates from individual ownership. When such distributions occur, they may be taxed as income in respect of a decedent (IRD), meaning that they are taxed at the beneficiary’s personal income tax rate. This contrasts with individually owned annuities, where beneficiaries might benefit from a step-up in basis that could lessen the tax impact.

Additionally, the nature of the trust, whether it is a simple trust (which is mandated to distribute all its income annually) or a complex trust (which has the discretion to retain income), will dictate the tax obligations and influence who bears the responsibility for tax payments. Therefore, trustees and beneficiaries must carefully consider the tax implications to manage the financial consequences of trust-owned annuities effectively.

Bottom Line

A woman considering the legal and tax implications of integrating an annuity into a trust.

When integrating an annuity into a trust, individuals should carefully consider the legal and tax implications. This means evaluating whether the annuity aligns with the objectives and structure of the trust, considering factors such as the trust’s purpose, the beneficiaries’ needs and the trustee’s discretion over investments and distributions. Additionally, they should determine how placing an annuity in the trust impacts flexibility and control over the assets, including considerations of liquidity, withdrawal options and the ability to change or terminate the annuity contract.

Tips for Retirement Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan for your specific retirement needs and goals. 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.
  • If you’re not sure how much you need to save for retirement, consider using a free retirement calculator.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © Donson