When I talk with couples about estate planning, a frequent question is whether they have enough assets to warrant the use of trusts.

Trusts have long been considered a tax-saving tool for the wealthy. Now that Congress has increased the federal estate tax exemption to $5 million and made that exemption portable for spouses, including trusts in an estate plan may seem to be overkill. Benefits other than estate tax reduction, however, often tip the scales in favor of trusts, even for couples with smaller estates.

A trust is an alternative to individual or joint ownership as a means for owning property. The person establishing the trust, known as the grantor, transfers assets to a trustee, who is charged with managing the property for a beneficiary according to the terms of the trust document. When a revocable living trust is part of an estate plan, the grantor, trustee and beneficiary are often the same person. Because the trust will also specify a successor trustee, the grantor is assured the assets will continue to be managed for his benefit should he become unable to manage his financial affairs on his own.

 Continue reading how everyone can benefit from a trust – regardless of their net worth.