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AB Trusts

AB Trusts

Normally, when one spouse dies passing on his/her assets in a last will and testament, the estate will be taxed heavily before the beneficiaries receive it. To avoid this steep estate tax, spouses can set up an AB trust, where each spouse leaves their property to an irrevocable trust. When it comes to estate planning, an AB trust is a trust created by married couples to maximize their federal estate tax exemptions. A lot of people believe that AB trusts only benefit those with large estates. The truth is anyone who may owe estate tax can benefit from an AB trust.

 How the AB Trust System Works

When the first spouse dies, the beneficiaries (usually the couple’s children) named in the trust receive that spouse’s property. However, this irrevocable trust is to be used for the benefit of the surviving spouse, who does not technically own the property. There is a crucial condition that the property can be used by the surviving spouse and that the surviving spouse may even spend principal in certain instances. Once the surviving spouse dies, all the property rights and benefits of the irrevocable trust pass to the surviving beneficiaries of the trust. Because the surviving spouse does not own the property, it is not subject to estate tax. Setting up an AB trust this way keeps the portion of the surviving spouse’s estate that is taxable half of what it would be without an AB trust.

Surviving Spouse’s Rights Over the Assets

As mentioned, the AB trust is left with the condition that it is to benefit the surviving spouse. This gives the surviving spouse some power over the assets, depending on the provisions of the trust. This is a part of probate law that some people struggle with.

The surviving spouse’s rights and benefits include receiving all income from the trust property, including:

  • Interest
  • Using the property
  • Spending to benefit his or her health, support and maintenance, standard of living, and education

The surviving spouse maintains these rights until her death, at which time all of the property is distributed to the beneficiaries of the original trust, and all of the surviving spouse’s property is distributed to his or her beneficiaries.

Disadvantages of an AB trust

The AB trust is irrevocable. Once one spouse dies, there cannot be any changes made to the trust. This can create some issues and has even caused friction between the surviving spouse and the named beneficiaries of the trust. As mentioned, the surviving spouse’s rights to use the property are limited. Where at one time this used to be the property he or she shared with his or her spouse, to do with as they pleased, this property is now restricted to certain uses and rights.

Settling and distributing property in an AB trust can be expensive and often requires a lawyer and accountant. Furthermore, these tax laws are always changing. You’ll need to keep current, or hire a professional to keep you current, on these changes and what they mean for you and your trust. These changes may even encourage you to change or even revoke your trust.

There is a lot of paperwork and bookkeeping required in an AB trust. The surviving spouse needs a tax ID number for the irrevocable trust and must file annual income tax returns on the trust. He or she must also keep records of all the AB trust property.

Is an AB trust is Right for You?

An AB trust is best suited for those married couples who are both over the age of 60 and do not have children from previous marriages. Often times when there are children from previous marriages conflicts arise between the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse’s children about who should share in the assets. If you think an AB trust might be for you or you have more questions, you should consult an attorney who can advise you based on your specific circumstances and your specific needs.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Planning Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.