The facts of life include remarriage. Almost 42 million adults in the U.S. have been married more than once, up from 22 million in 1980, according to the Pew Research Center. For older Americans, remarriage can pose estate planning problems. Even for couples who share children, potential remarriage might be a concern. And even if remarriage isn't a concern, your surviving spouse may need help protecting assets from scam artists. So how can you provide for a surviving spouse yet still leave your wealth to children from a prior marriage?
Let’s say that Betty and Bob have kids and grandkids. Bob is worried that he'll die first and pass on his wealth to Betty, who might remarry and his kids would get nothing. Investor’s Business Daily explores this issue in “Cut Taxes, Send Assets To Loved Ones After Your Death.” One solution is to create a Qualified Terminable Interest Property, or QTIP trust, so that when the first spouse passes away, the assets pass to the trust.
A QTIP typically doesn’t have estate taxes. The surviving spouse must be a U.S. citizen and must be entitled to all of the trust income, which has to be paid out at least once a year during the survivor's lifetime. No one else can receive trust distributions during that time. At the same time, the trust creator can give the trustee some flexibility: the distributions of principal to the survivor might be allowed to pay living expenses and essential medical bills. However, the surviving spouse need not control the QTIP assets.
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.
Reference: Investor’s Business Daily (September 4, 2015) “Cut Taxes, Send Assets To Loved Ones After Your Death”