In 2017, NBA team owner Gail Miller made headlines when she announced that she was effectively no longer the owner of the Utah Jazz or the Vivint Smart Home Arena. These assets, she said, were being placed into a family trust, therefore raising interest in an estate planning tool previously known only to the very wealthy–the dynasty trust.
Dynasty Trusts Explained
A dynasty trust (also called a “legacy trust”) is a special irrevocable trust that is intended to survive for many generations. The beneficiaries may receive limited payments from the trust, but asset ownership remains with the trust as long as the trust is in effect. In some states, a legal rule known as the Rule Against Perpetuities limits how long a dynasty trust can last.
The rule against perpetuities is a common law concept that still applies in most states. It generally provides that a trust may not last longer than 21 years after the death of the last potential beneficiary to die who was living at the time the trust was established.
California has enacted the Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities (USRAP), which provides that a trust may last at least 90 years before the common law rule is applied. In fact, this 90-year “wait and see” approach in USRAP now applies in most other states, too.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Wealthy families often use dynasty trusts as a way of keeping the money “in the family” for many generations. Rather than distribute assets over the life of a beneficiary, dynasty trusts consolidate the ownership and management of family wealth. The design of these trusts makes them exempt from estate taxes and the generation-skipping transfer tax, at least under current laws, so that wealth has a better ability to grow over time, rather than having as much as a 40-50% haircut at the death of each generation.
However, these benefits also come at the expense of other advantages. For example, since dynasty trusts are irrevocable and rely on a complex interplay of tax rules and state law; changes to them are much more difficult, or even potentially impossible as a practical matter, compared to non-dynasty trusts. Because changes are so difficult (or impossible), the design of a dynasty trust needs to anticipate any and all changes in family structure (e.g. a divorce, a child’s adoption) and assets (e.g. stock valuation, land appraisals), decades before any such changes occur.
Is a Dynasty Trust Right for Your Family?
In the past, these kinds of trusts were usually only used by very wealthy families whose fortunes would be subject to large estate taxes. However, dynasty trusts are powerful tools for “regular” families today who which to protect estates not only from taxes, but also from divorces, creditors or the ill-advised spending habits of beneficiaries. To learn more about dynasty trusts other estate planning strategies, call our office today.
Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,