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The term "trust" is a general term that really does not describe the many goals that a trust can accomplish. The following lists contains just a few examples:

• Revocable Living Trust (RLT): The RLT can be utilized to deal with the future disability of the beneficiary, to prevent will disparities, to avoid year's support claims, for asset protection, or to avoid probate. Some clients own out-of-state assets, which they place in an RLT to avoid ancillary probate in those states.

• Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT): An ILIT is a trust created for the purpose of owning one or more life insurance policies. The primary intent of an ILIT is to make cash available to the decedent's estate yet prevent the policy's death benefit from being included in the decedent's taxable estate.

• Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (Q-TIP): The Q-TIP trust is a specialized trust which allows the decedent's spouse to benefit from the trust assets during his or her life, while taking advantage of the estate tax marital deduction. This is especially beneficial when the decedent wishes to provide for his or her spouse while insuring that, at the surviving spouse's death, the asset then goes to the decedent's children from a prior marriage.

• Credit-Maximizer Trust: A credit-maximizer trust is a relatively simple trust that allows a married couple to exempt from their total estates up to $5 million, based upon the 2006 unified credit amount. This means that with a relatively small amount of estate planning, $5 million can be left to a couple's children without the imposition of any estate tax whatsoever. For even larger estates, the credit-maximizer trust, together with other estate planning options, can significantly reduce, and in some cases eliminate estate tax liability.

• Special Needs Trust: A special needs trust is generally created for an elderly or disabled person. These trusts are intended not only to prevent a person's creditors from attacking the disabled individual's assets, but also to assist in either qualifying for or maintaining available government benefits. The law dealing with qualification for Medicaid has recently changed and is likely to change more in the future. Therefore, it is very important to structure your special needs trust to meet your particular needs.

• Charitable Trust: Charitable trusts can provide benefits for your extended family, save income taxes, save estate taxes, and also benefit your favorite charity or charities. There are two basic types of charitable trusts. A charitable lead trust provides for payments to one or more charities for either a set period of time or for the donor's lifetime with the remaining assets going to the donor's heirs at the donor's death.

A charitable remainder trust provides for income payments to the donor, or to designated beneficiaries, with the remainder going to the charity at the deaths of the last of the income beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of a charitable remainder trust can be best described by the following example: Suppose a married couple has owned an asset for many years (it could be real estate, stocks or some other asset), and the asset has greatly appreciated in value. The same asset would result in an income tax liability, and there would also be an estate tax liability. If the couple creates a charitable remainder trust and contributes the asset to the trust, then the trust can sell the asset with no income tax liability. The entire sales proceeds can be invested with income to be paid to the couple for their lives, and any remainder would go to the charity at their death. The couple also receives an income tax deduction and the property is out of their estate for estate tax purposes.

There are a number of variations on these charitable trust concepts that may be beneficial to you or your family.

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