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How does Planning with a Trust Help My Beneficiaries?

Picture of By: Chris Soto

By: Chris Soto

Christopher D. Soto is an estate planning attorney who specializes in personalized plans for individuals, families, and businesses. He emphasizes the importance of planning for the future and maintains expertise through education and contributions to the field. With a JD from Arizona State University College of Law, he is licensed in Arizona. Mr. Soto is also a contributing author for WealthCounsel® Estate Planning Strategies, and is inspired by his dedication to his own family in his work to protect other families’ legacies.

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This article explores trusts, distribution methods, and how a trust can make it easier or harder for heirs to receive the money.

When crafting an estate plan, many individuals and couples prioritize forming a plan that will best meet the needs of their chosen beneficiaries. Whether you are concerned about providing for minor children, safeguarding money from being wasted by certain beneficiaries, or trying to find the most time and tax efficient manner to pass down your hard-earned wealth, a properly designed Trust can prove to be an invaluable instrument. But how will your beneficiaries interact with and benefit from your Trust?

Trusts are powerful estate-planning tools that bypass probate and provide a structured method for transferring assets to beneficiaries while minimizing tax implications. The Smart Asset article “How Does a Beneficiary Get Money From a Trust?” addresses this question and highlights several options you have when designing your own plan. Let’s explore trusts, distribution methods, and how a trust can make it easier or harder for heirs to get the money.

Why Trusts are a Reliable Go-To Estate Planning Strategy

Trusts are a tried-and-true strategy for providing for loved ones after you’re gone and leaving a multigenerational legacy. A well-structured trust can preserve wealth, avoid probate, and control asset distribution while minimizing taxes.

A trustmaker establishes a trust through a legal document and funds it with assets, including investments, bank accounts, real estate, and other property. The trust document appoints a trustee or co-trustees and should include key provisions that will determine how the trust is administered. Terms and conditions instruct how and when the trustee distributes the estate to named beneficiaries.

How Do Beneficiaries Receive Money from a Trust? What are the Methods of Distribution?

  • Outright Distribution: The simplest form of gift, an outright distribution requires the trustee to distribute trust assets directly to beneficiaries, typically without restrictions. Money is deposited into a bank account or as a check. Real estate is given as a new deed or sold for the money.
  • Beneficiary Trust Shares: You may instead choose to design your trust to form spin-off trust shares for your chosen beneficiaries. There are many advantages to choosing such an approach, some of which are outlined below:
    • Over-Time Distributions: The trustmaker may opt for a phased approach, where assets are distributed to beneficiaries gradually based on predetermined criteria. This might involve reaching a certain age or meeting specific life milestones.
    • Trustee’s Discretion: Independent trustees can be granted discretion over asset distribution, which is particularly beneficial for beneficiaries who struggle with financial management. Trustees ensure assets are distributed responsibly based on the trustmaker’s intentions. As Trustmaker, you are able to tailor each trust share to address the specific needs of each beneficiary.
    • Asset Protection and Divorce Protection: Even if you perceive that your chosen beneficiaries are responsible enough to manage their inherited assets, they still stand to gain very powerful asset protection benefits when inheriting through a trust share. Inherited assets that remain in a beneficiary’s separate trust share retain significant protections from creditors, lawsuits, and even a beneficiary’s divorce.

How can Trust Distribution Methods Make It Easier or Harder for Beneficiaries to Receive the Money?

Trustmakers can structure a trust to maximize the ease for heirs to receive inheritance through direct distributions to the beneficiary. Adult and financially sound beneficiaries are good candidates for this method. Minor or irresponsible heirs would likely benefit from tailored restrictions and distributions over time.

Your chosen trustees must distribute assets within a reasonable timeframe, typically after fulfilling administrative tasks such as reviewing trust terms and obtaining asset appraisals. While there’s no strict deadline, prolonged delays can incur additional costs for maintaining the trust. Choosing responsible successor trustees and funding your trust appropriately are the best ways to ensure a smooth administration of your trust and to maximize the cost and time savings from avoiding probate.

You know your beneficiaries best, so a well-designed trust should be structured to preserve and protect assets in their best interests. Many providers advertise a cheap, one-size-fits-all approach to trust creation which will inevitably fail to maximize the benefits your beneficiaries stand to receive from your estate plan. Setting up an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to craft your legacy.

Trust Beneficiary Distribution Key Takeaways:

  • Structuring a Trust: A trustmaker establishes a trust through a legal document, funds it, and appoints a trustee or co-trustees to administer the trust and distribute the estate to named beneficiaries.
  • Distributing Assets: A distribution can occur outright, gradually, or at the trustee’s discretion.
  • Considering Your Beneficiaries: A responsible or irresponsible heir can help determine the terms and conditions of distribution.
  • Asset Protection: Appropriately designed trusts can protect your legacy by providing beneficiaries with a lifetime of protection for inherited assets.


Whether assets are distributed outright, gradually, or at the trustee’s discretion, being well-informed empowers you to make sound financial decisions. Seeking advice from an experienced estate planning attorney like those at Soto Law Firm can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your needs.

Reference: Smartasset (Aug. 25, 2023) “How Does a Beneficiary Get Money From a Trust?”

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