As a grandparent (or a loved one of a grandparent), you know how much you love your grandkids. You want to be able to provide for them, at least in part, whether that involves time, attention, or even money. If you want to protect your assets and help your grandchildren out later, you can do so through the establishment of a trust. In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of establishing a trust for your grandkids. This is by no means an exhaustive look—it’s more of an overview—but it’ll get the basics down.
What is a Trust?
Essentially, a trust is a legal construct. It is a three-party relationship between you, your grandchildren, and a trustee. You transfer nominal title of the property to a trustee, who then transfers actual title of the property to your grandchildren at an agreed-upon time period. Sometimes, grandparents will choose certain milestones to release property or money to their grandchildren (eighteenth birthday, college graduation, etc.). Or, they’ll set aside money to be transferred when the grandchild is attempting to meet a specific goal, like buying a home or starting their own business.
How Do I Set One Up?
Trusts aren’t too difficult to set up. An attorney will need to work with you to set one up, and you also might have to involve your bank to discuss investment options or other financial planning considerations. What is for sure is that you’ll need an attorney. An attorney will help you decide how you want to structure your trust. For example, if you set up a gift trust, you will not be able to revoke it and reclaim your money. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are other types of trusts you can create. However, the bottom line is that you will need a lawyer.
Types of Trusts
If you’re leaving money or assets to just a few grandchildren, you may consider setting up an individual trust for each grandchild. Grandparents usually put equal amounts of money into every grandchild’s trust. Again, this is dependent on what works best for your family size. A family pot type of trust is another option.
The family trust fund is another option. If you have a lot of people in your family (and thus a lot of beneficiaries), you might start a large fund and have your trustee distribute assets at certain times or upon certain occasions. This pot of money, so to speak, is a single trust for all your grandchildren and their descendants. Note that these trusts require the trustee to have a lot of discretion, so make sure you are okay with that.
What Do These Include?
Don’t worry—these trusts are not a free for all. You can set up your trust with instructions and rules that govern the disbursement of the money. For example, you might set up a milestone distribution program as discussed above, or you could set aside money to pay for college tuition. Involve your trustee in these discussions.
Protecting the Trust
Last, but certainly not least, is the idea of protecting your trust. Grandchildren don’t always behave according to plan. There might be substance abuse issues or similar problems that would caution a reasonable person to hold back on fund distribution. Again, this is where discretion to the trustee comes in handy. You can leave instructions with him or her to hold back on disbursing funds in the event of an issue with the proposed beneficiary.
An estate planning attorney will help you work out the nitty-gritty. You will need to talk to your family and work with them to decide how you want to structure your trust and what specifications you need to think about. It goes without saying, but every family is different. Your family has its own set of challenges, and structuring a trust with those in mind will be a great long-term benefit.