Saving for College in Trust Accounts: Types of Trusts and How They Work
No two trusts are alike in every respect. Different grantors, beneficiaries, and fiduciaries make sure this is the case. Individual provisions make the variations even more pronounced. And that doesn't even begin to touch the wide variety of types of trusts that are available: living trusts, grantor-type trusts, irrevocable inter vivos trusts, testamentary trusts, and so on. The list is lengthy, and each serves a particular purpose. Still, some basic types of trusts may be particularly appropriate for you when saving for your children's college education.
Investigating Inter Vivos Trusts
If you're so fortunate as to remember some of the Latin you learned in school, you know that "inter vivos" refers to a period during life. In the case of these trusts, it's during your life. Inter vivos trusts are created by you (the grantor) during your lifetime, to hold assets for another person. These trusts can be revocable (you can change your mind at any time and do away with it, taking back all the assets that you've placed in it) or irrevocable.
Living And Other Grantor-type Trusts
A so-called living trust is probably the most talked-about trust variety in the media these days. Everyone and his brother is touting these trusts as a way to avoid probate and even estate taxes, and they're generally being sold as the greatest thing since sliced bread. In reality, a living trust is an entity that you set up, fund, and then retain total control over. You have the right to revoke the trust at any time as long as you're still alive — once you die, all bets are off. All trusts become irrevocable at the death of the grantor. Because you retain control over the assets, you're taxed on any income earned by this trust just as if you never put it into the trust.
As a college savings vehicle, a living trust really doesn't make much sense. Here are a few reasons why:
- When the financial aid folks come around counting your assets, whatever is in this trust is counted as your asset and a maximum of 5.64 percent of the value will be included in the federal formula for the expected family contribution.You haven't successfully removed it from the mix.
- Even if you make a distribution to your child to pay for his college expenses, you still have to pay the annual income tax bill on the income you've earned in the current year (just like you've been paying every year since you set up the trust).
- If you're the type of parent that wants your child to really understand how much this education is costing, and you hand your child a check and tell him to use it to pay his expenses (fortunately for you, he's a good kid and does what he's told), you've just made a gift to him that may have gift tax consequences.
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