How can I protect the inheritances I leave to a spouse?

A frequent estate planning objective is to prevent a spouse from losing his or her inheritance. You may also want to insure that your spouse will eventually bequeath your assets to beneficiaries of your choice which are usually children from a former marriage. To accomplish this calls for a Q-Tip or Qualified Terminable Interest Property trust which gives your spouse lifetime income from the trust. But once your spouse dies or remarries, the trust principal passes to your children or whatever other beneficiaries that you designate.

Q-TIPs are common with subsequent marriages because they preserve the assets for the grantor’s children rather than the spouse’s children or family who would otherwise logically become the beneficiaries if the deceased spouse’s estate were left outright to the surviving spouse. Q-TIPs can also be used for first spouses when the concern is that the surviving spouse may be sued or waste the assets. A Q-TIP is essentially a spendthrift trust to shelter the deceased spouse’s assets from the surviving spouse’s creditors or subsequent mates. One restriction is that income from the Q-TIP trust must be used solely to benefit the surviving spouse during the spouse’s lifetime. That’s vital if the trust is to qualify for the unlimited marital deduction. However Q-TIP trusts won’t protect your assets from your creditors – assuming you are the grantor – because Q-TIP is a testamentary trust. It’s funded only upon your death, and the assets remain in your own name and vulnerable to your creditors during your lifetime. However, the Q-TIP trust can shelter your wealth from a spendthrift spouse, or spouse who has legal difficulties after you die.