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Future-Proof Your Wealth: How SLATs Can Shield Your Estate

Season #2

Today, we're diving into the intriguing world of estate planning with a special focus on the not-so-well-known but incredibly potent Spousal Lifetime Access Trust, or SLAT for short.

Joining us this week, is our special guide through this legal labyrinth, Azriel J. Baer, affectionately known as Azi, a veritable wizard in the realms of estate planning and trust administration. So, buckle up as we unravel the mysteries of SLATs, a tool that might just be the secret sauce in safeguarding your financial legacy.

What is a SLAT or Spousal Lifetime Access Trust?

Let's start with the basics. A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT) is a type of irrevocable trust used in estate planning. It's designed to provide benefits for both a spouse and other beneficiaries, such as children or grandchildren. Here's how it generally works:

One spouse (the donor) establishes the trust and contributes assets to it. These assets are typically gifted, which means they are no longer part of the donor's estate.

The trust typically names the other spouse (the beneficiary) as well as other family members, such as children or grandchildren, as beneficiaries. The trust can distribute income and/or principal to these beneficiaries according to the terms set forth in the trust document.

Despite being an irrevocable trust, the SLAT allows the beneficiary spouse access to trust assets during their lifetime. This can provide financial security for the beneficiary spouse while also allowing the donor spouse to remove assets from their taxable estate.

By naming the spouse as a beneficiary, the donor ensures that the spouse has access to the trust assets for their lifetime, providing financial support and security. While the donor cannot directly control the assets once they are transferred to the trust, they can have indirect control by selecting the trustee and determining the terms under which distributions can be made to beneficiaries.

Overall, a SLAT can be a powerful estate planning tool for couples looking to minimize estate taxes, provide for their spouse, and transfer wealth to future generations. However, it's essential to consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure that it's structured correctly and aligns with your specific goals and circumstances.

Navigating the SLAT Landscape

Diving into a SLAT isn't something you do on a whim. It requires a bit of soul-searching and a whole lot of trust - no pun intended. You'll need to pick a trustee (aka your spouse) who you'd trust with your life (or at least your life's savings) and come to terms with giving up some control over your assets. It's a bit like letting go of the reins on your prized stallion, but with the right setup and a trustworthy trustee, you can rest easy knowing your going to save a whole lot of money in Estate taxes.

Who's a Good Fit for a SLAT?

A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT) can be a suitable option for couples who have significant assets and are concerned about estate taxes, while also wanting to provide financial support for their spouse and other beneficiaries. Here are some scenarios where a SLAT might be a good fit:

1. High Net Worth Couples:

Couples with substantial assets that exceed estate tax exemption thresholds may find SLATs beneficial for minimizing estate taxes. By transferring assets to a SLAT, they can remove those assets from their taxable estate, potentially reducing or eliminating estate taxes upon their death.

2. Concerns About Future Estate Taxes:

Couples who anticipate that their assets will continue to grow over time may be concerned about the potential impact of estate taxes on their estate. Establishing a SLAT allows them to remove appreciating assets from their estate, potentially reducing future estate tax liabilities.

3. Desire to Provide for Spouse and Future Generations:

Couples who want to ensure financial security for their spouse while also providing for future generations can benefit from a SLAT. By naming the spouse as a beneficiary, the donor ensures that the spouse has access to trust assets for their lifetime, while also allowing for distributions to children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries.

4. Asset Protection:

SLATs can also offer asset protection benefits. Because assets transferred to the trust are no longer considered part of the donor's estate, they may be shielded from creditors' claims or legal judgments against the donor.

It's important for couples considering a SLAT to consult with experienced legal and financial professionals who can assess their individual circumstances and goals and recommend appropriate estate planning strategies. Additionally, it's essential to periodically review and update the SLAT to ensure that it remains aligned with the couple's changing needs and objectives.

The Secret Sauce of SLATs

It's all about locking in today's value for a brighter tomorrow. By transferring your high-growth assets into SLAT now, you're setting up a Fort Knox around your wealth, making sure it multiplies free of future estate tax burdens. And even if those tax laws do a 180, Azi reassures us that there's likely no clawback to worry about—you're secure in the knowledge that your SLAT's protected by the law as it stands today.

Wrapping It Up with a Bow

As we mosey on down the trail, it's clear that SLATs are a potent tool in the estate planning arsenal, offering a blend of asset protection, tax efficiency, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing your legacy is secure. While they may not be as well-known as the cowboy hat at a rodeo, their value is undeniable for those looking to preserve their wealth for generations to come. So, if you're pondering how to keep your financial legacy safe from the storms ahead, it might just be time to tip your hat to the idea of a SLAT.

There you have it, folks! A whirlwind tour of the world of SLATs with Azi Baer as our sage guide. Remember, in the Wild West of estate planning, a little knowledge can go a long way in protecting your hard-earned wealth. Until next time, keep your assets safe and your trusts irrevocable.

If you would like to learn more about SLATs and how they might fit in to your financial future, reach out to the Yields for You team, or contact Azi directly.

About Azriel J. Baer

Azriel Baer is a trusts and estates attorney counseling high-net-worth individuals and families. Clients turn to Azi for increasingly complex estate planning matters, as well as trust and estate administration. He often works with multiple generations of families, as well as family business owners, to create custom estate plans that make sense for the family while still preserving and protecting family wealth.

Azi helps clients achieve their goals through the preparation of wills, revocable and irrevocable trust instruments and advance directives. He also utilizes more complex estate planning techniques, including transfers to spousal lifetime access trusts (SLATs), grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), and qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs). He assists clients with modifying, terminating and decanting trusts and helps facilitate the smooth transfer of assets to beneficiaries.

In addition, Azi also helps clients navigate estate administration. He is able to simplify the complex so that clients can work through the sometimes challenging process of preparing estate tax returns, distributing assets, and settling estates.

Known as a collaborator, Azi serves as a valuable consultant to colleagues in the firm’s estate litigation group, offering expertise in tax and estate planning that helps resolve intricate fiduciary litigation matters.

To learn more about Azi visit his website: