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Frequently Asked Questions about California Trusts (I)

1. Different Trusts
(1). What is an A-B Trust?
An A-B Trust is one version of a living trust that can be used by married couples to utilize the certain amount exemption* for each spouse and thereby minimize or eliminate estate taxes. This option is included in all Legacy Documents. (*The standard of certain amount exemption will change as time goes on. Please consult your attorney.)

(2). What is a Qualified Domestic Trust?
If the surviving spouse is not a U.S. citizen, no marital deduction is allowed unless the assets to be transferred to the surviving spouse are instead transferred to a qualified domestic trust, also called a QDT. The marital deduction allows married couples to transfer assets between themselves at death without subjecting those assets to the federal estate tax. At least one trustee of a QDT must be a U.S. citizen or a domestic corporation, such as a bank or trust company. The trust document must also provide the no distribution can be made from the trust unless the trustee who is the U.S. citizen or domestic corporation has the right to withhold federal estate taxes from the distribution.

(3). What is a special needs trust?
The beneficiary of a special needs trust is usually receiving benefits from a government program for the indigent. Those benefits will stop if the beneficiary receives an inheritance because these programs have strict limits regarding the amount of income and assets that a beneficiary can receive. A special needs trust provides a source of money that is held by the living trust and paid in small amounts either to the beneficiary, or for his or her benefit. The trustee will not pay any amount to the beneficiary that would increase his or her income or assets beyond the limits set by the government program and cause the government benefits to stop. The trust can own certain assets that are available to the beneficiary, such as a car. After the death of the beneficiary, the balance of the trust fund will be distributed to other trust beneficiaries.

(4). What exactly is a revocable living trust? What is the difference between a "revocable" and "irrevocable" trust?
It is a separate legal entity set up to care for and manage property or funds for you or for the benefit of another. A revocable trust can be changed at any time until a designated event occurs, usually one's death. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed once it has been created.

2. Who?
(1). Who manages the trust?
Usually you name yourself to be the manager (trustee). However, you could name a friend, a child who is not a minor, or a corporate entity, such as a bank.

(2). Who receives my estate?
The distribution plan for a trust can be the same as the distribution plan in a will. You can give your estate to your children, set up trusts for them if they are too young to receive an inheritance, make charitable gifts, or make gifts to beneficiaries outside of your family. The decision is yours. However, whenever a distribution is made to an individual beneficiary, a provision should be included that says who will receive that distribution if the original beneficiary does not survive the trustor.

(3). Who should be chosen as the successor trustee? Can I appoint a minor child as my Successor Trustee?
Many persons choose their children, either as co-trustees, or in a specific order of succession. This can be a good choice, particularly if the proposed trustee has some experience with accounting or taxes. If there are no children, or if the persons would rather not use their children as trustees, other choices are other relatives, friends, or trust companies and banks. However, the person chosen as trustee must be responsible and able to devote the time required to the trust administration and management. The proposed trustee does not need to have an extensive knowledge of trusts, law, or accounting, but should be willing to seek professional help to carry out the administration of the trust. No, the minimum age for a Successor Trustee is eighteen years.

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