“Decanting” a trust is a legal option that’s becoming more popular; some states have adopted decanting statutes, including Florida. To decant a trust means to rewrite or redo the old trust to account for changes or unforeseen circumstances that the original wording in the trust may not cover. At first glance, it might seem like the beneficiaries are attempting to reword trusts to suit their own financial whims, but many estate planning attorneys say this is rarely the case.
Several good reasons exist for decanting a trust. Beneficiaries may wish to lengthen a trust’s terms, or to take advantage of better tax rates in another state. Perhaps an old trust is outdated and needs to be changed to add a beneficiary or adjust for a family’s changed circumstances. A trustee may wish to have more flexible investment options than an irrevocable trust is currently providing.
Estate planning attorneys caution that since decanting laws are still rather new, the tax consequences and other effects to adjusting a trust are not exactly clear yet. Also, the language of a trust may prevent any type of change, including decanting. There are sometimes ways to work around even a rigid trust, so consulting with an estate planning attorney would be beneficial in such a case.
Being able to decant a trust isn’t meant to reward greed or cause strife within a family; rather, it’s to allow beneficiaries the chance to make needed changes when it’s in the family’s best interests. It’s recommended to use flexible working in a trust, to protect the interests of the trustees as well as the assets of the estate.
Source: Barrons.com, “How to Bust a Trust,” Tatiana Serafin, Mar. 2, 2013