What Are the Various Trust Fund Account Types?

Discover the various trust fund account types, their benefits, and how to set them up. Learn about revocable, irrevocable, and specialized trusts.


If you’re looking for an efficient way to manage and pass on assets, understanding trust fund account types is crucial. A trust fund is a legal structure that holds and manages assets on behalf of beneficiaries. Here’s a quick overview to get you started:

  • Revocable Trusts: Flexible and can be changed during the grantor’s lifetime.
  • Irrevocable Trusts: Fixed and offer tax benefits and asset protection.
  • Testamentary Trusts: Created by a will and activate after the grantor’s death.

Trust funds aren’t just for the wealthy. They offer several benefits, including avoiding probate, protecting assets from creditors, and providing potential tax advantages.

I’m John F. Pace, CPA. With over 40 years of experience in trust and estate administration, I’ve helped numerous clients navigate the complexities of trust fund account types. Now, let’s dive deeper into understanding these valuable financial tools.

Understanding Trust Fund Account Types

Trust funds come in various forms, each suited to different needs and goals. Let’s explore three main types: Revocable Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, and Testamentary Trusts.

Revocable Trusts

Revocable trusts, also known as living trusts, are flexible tools for managing your assets during your lifetime. You can change or even revoke them entirely as your circumstances evolve.

Key Benefits:
Control: You maintain control over the assets while you’re alive.
Avoid Probate: Assets in a revocable trust bypass probate, allowing for quicker distribution to beneficiaries.
Privacy: Unlike wills, the contents of a revocable trust aren’t made public.

Example: Imagine Jane, a grandmother who wants to leave her assets to her grandchildren but may need to adjust the specifics as her family grows. A revocable trust allows her to make these changes without hassle.

Irrevocable Trusts

Irrevocable trusts are more rigid. Once you set them up, you generally cannot alter or cancel them without the beneficiaries’ consent. However, this inflexibility comes with significant benefits.

Key Benefits:
Tax Advantages: By transferring assets to an irrevocable trust, you may reduce estate taxes.
Asset Protection: These trusts can protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits.
Avoid Probate: Like revocable trusts, they also avoid the probate process.

Example: Consider Mark, who wants to protect his assets from potential creditors due to his risky business ventures. An irrevocable trust can safeguard his wealth, ensuring it goes to his children regardless of his financial ups and downs.

Testamentary Trusts

Testamentary trusts are established through a will and become effective after the grantor’s death. They’re often used to manage assets for minor children or other dependents.

Key Benefits:
Customized Distribution: Specify how and when assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
Control from Beyond: Continue to influence how your assets are managed and distributed even after your death.

Example: Sarah, a single mother, wants to ensure her young children are financially secure if something happens to her. By setting up a testamentary trust, she can dictate that her children receive funds for education, living expenses, and other needs until they reach adulthood.

Understanding these trust fund account types is crucial for effective estate planning. Each type has unique features that can help you achieve specific financial goals and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Next, we’ll look into specialized trust fund accounts that cater to even more specific needs and circumstances.

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trust Funds

When it comes to trust fund account types, understanding the differences between revocable and irrevocable trust funds is key. Each type has unique features that can help you achieve specific financial goals and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.


Revocable Trusts offer a high degree of flexibility. As the grantor, you can modify or revoke the trust at any time during your lifetime. This means you can change the terms, add or remove assets, and even dissolve the trust if your circumstances or intentions change.

Example: Imagine you set up a revocable trust to pass your home to your grandchildren. If you decide to sell the house or move, you can easily update the trust terms.

Irrevocable Trusts, on the other hand, are much more rigid. Once established, the terms generally cannot be altered without the consent of the beneficiaries. This means you must be certain of your decisions when setting up an irrevocable trust.

Example: If you place your family business in an irrevocable trust, you cannot later decide to sell the business or change the beneficiaries without their approval.

Tax Benefits

Revocable Trusts do not provide significant tax benefits. Since you retain control over the assets, they are still considered part of your taxable estate. This means the assets could be subject to estate taxes upon your death.

Irrevocable Trusts, however, offer considerable tax advantages. Once you transfer assets into an irrevocable trust, they are no longer part of your taxable estate. This can greatly reduce or even eliminate estate taxes.

Example: By placing a life insurance policy in an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT), the policy proceeds can be excluded from your estate, potentially saving your beneficiaries from a hefty tax bill.

Asset Protection

Revocable Trusts do not offer protection from creditors. Since the assets are still considered part of your estate, they can be claimed by creditors in the event of a lawsuit or bankruptcy.

Irrevocable Trusts provide strong asset protection. Because you no longer own the assets, they are shielded from legal judgments and creditors.

Example: If you set up a Domestic Asset Protection Trust (DAPT), your assets can be protected from potential future creditors, ensuring they remain within your family.

Understanding these differences can help you choose the right type of trust for your needs.

Next, we’ll look into specialized trust fund accounts that cater to even more specific needs and circumstances.

Specialized Trust Fund Accounts

When it comes to trust fund account types, there are specialized options designed to meet specific needs and goals. Let’s explore some of the most common specialized trusts:

Charitable Trust

A charitable trust is ideal if you want to support a charitable organization or cause. There are two main types:

  • Charitable Lead Annuity Trust (CLAT): The income from the trust’s assets goes to the designated charity for a specific period. After that, the remaining assets go to your beneficiaries.

  • Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT): Here, the beneficiary receives the income during the designated period, and the charity gets the remainder at the end.

Example: If you set up a CLAT, you can support your favorite charity for 10 years, after which the remaining assets can go to your children. Plus, you might get a tax deduction when you transfer assets to the trust.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is crucial for families with disabled members. It ensures that funds are available for additional care without affecting the beneficiary’s eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

Case Study: Jane set up a special needs trust for her son, who has autism. This trust ensures he receives the best care possible without losing his government benefits.

Spendthrift Trust

If you have a beneficiary who isn’t great at managing money, a spendthrift trust might be the solution. This trust gives the trustee control over the distribution of funds, protecting the assets from being squandered or claimed by creditors.

Example: John set up a spendthrift trust for his daughter, who has a history of poor financial decisions. The trustee only disburses funds for her living expenses, ensuring she has financial stability.

Asset Protection Trust

An asset protection trust shields your assets from creditors and legal claims. These are often irrevocable trusts, meaning once you transfer the assets, you no longer own them.

Fact: Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (DAPTs) are popular in states like Nevada and Delaware, offering robust protection against future creditors.

Marital Trust

A marital trust benefits a surviving spouse. It’s funded at one spouse’s death and is eligible for the unlimited marital deduction, meaning it won’t incur estate taxes until the surviving spouse passes away.

Quote: According to Investopedia, “A marital trust can ensure your spouse is financially secure while deferring estate taxes until both spouses have passed.”

Generation-Skipping Trust

A generation-skipping trust allows you to pass assets directly to your grandchildren, skipping your children’s generation. This can be a smart move to avoid estate taxes for one generation.

Statistic: The estate tax exemption is about $12 million in 2022, which means most families won’t need this type of trust. However, it’s a valuable tool for wealthy families looking to minimize taxes.

Each type of specialized trust serves a unique purpose. It’s essential to consult with a professional to determine which one aligns with your specific needs and goals.

Next, we’ll discuss how to set up a trust fund account, covering the roles of the grantor, beneficiary, and trustee, as well as how to fund the trust.

Setting Up a Trust Fund Account

Setting up a trust fund account can seem daunting, but breaking it down into steps makes it more manageable. Here’s a simple guide to help you understand the roles of the grantor, beneficiary, and trustee, as well as how to fund the trust.


The grantor is the person who creates the trust fund. They decide the terms, conditions, and purpose of the trust. For example, a grantor might set up a trust to pay for their grandchild’s education. The grantor transfers assets into the trust and outlines how these assets should be managed and distributed.


The beneficiary is the person or group of people who will receive the benefits from the trust. These benefits can be distributed in various ways, such as regular payments or a lump sum. Beneficiaries can include family members, friends, or even charitable organizations.


The trustee is the person or entity responsible for managing the trust according to the grantor’s instructions. This can be an individual like a family member or a professional entity like a bank. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, ensuring that the assets are managed prudently and distributed as per the trust’s terms.

Choosing a Trustee:

  • Reliability: The trustee should be trustworthy and reliable.
  • Financial Savvy: They should understand financial management.
  • Understanding of Wishes: They should have a clear understanding of the grantor’s wishes.

Funding the Trust

Funding the trust involves transferring assets into the trust. This step is crucial because if assets aren’t properly transferred, they may not be covered by the trust. Here’s how you can fund the trust:

  1. Identify Assets: Determine which assets you want to transfer into the trust. These can include real estate, bank accounts, stocks, and personal property.
  2. Transfer Ownership: Legally transfer the ownership of these assets to the trust. This might involve changing titles or beneficiary designations.
  3. Document Everything: Ensure that all transfers are documented properly to avoid any legal issues later on.

Example: If you want to transfer a piece of real estate, you would need to change the title of the property to reflect that it is now owned by the trust.

By understanding these roles and steps, you can set up a trust fund account that effectively manages and protects your assets, ensuring they are used according to your wishes.

Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about trust fund account types, including differences between revocable and irrevocable trusts, asset protection, and tax benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions about Trust Fund Account Types

What is the difference between a revocable and an irrevocable trust fund?

Revocable Trust Fund:

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, offers flexibility. The grantor can modify or revoke the trust at any time during their lifetime.

  • Control: The grantor retains control over the assets.
  • Probate Avoidance: Assets avoid probate, leading to quicker distribution.
  • Privacy: The estate is distributed privately, as the trust is not made public.
  • Flexibility: Changes can be made, and the trust can be entirely revoked before the grantor’s death.

Irrevocable Trust Fund:

An irrevocable trust is much harder to change or revoke. This rigidity provides specific benefits.

  • Tax Benefits: Potentially significant tax advantages, as assets are no longer owned by the grantor.
  • Probate Avoidance: Similar to revocable trusts, these assets avoid probate.
  • Asset Protection: Greater protection from creditors and legal judgments.

How can a trust fund protect assets from creditors?

Irrevocable Trusts:

Irrevocable trusts are the go-to option for protecting assets from creditors. Once assets are transferred into an irrevocable trust, the grantor relinquishes control and ownership. This means creditors can’t claim these assets to settle debts.

Spendthrift Trusts:

These trusts also offer asset protection by restricting the beneficiary’s access to the trust assets. Beneficiaries can’t sell, spend, or give away the assets without meeting specific stipulations. This makes it difficult for creditors to claim these assets.

Asset Protection Trusts:

Designed specifically to shield assets from future creditors, these trusts provide robust protection. They can be set up domestically or offshore, depending on the level of protection desired.

What are the tax benefits of setting up a trust fund?

Irrevocable Trusts:

  • Estate Tax Reduction: Assets in an irrevocable trust are not considered part of the grantor’s estate, potentially reducing estate taxes.
  • Gift Taxes: Transferring assets into an irrevocable trust might be subject to gift taxes, but there are exemptions and thresholds to consider.
  • Income Taxes: Trusts usually file their own tax returns, and income can be taxed differently based on the type of trust.

Charitable Trusts:

  • Charitable Deduction: Donors can receive a charitable deduction when transferring assets to the trust.
  • Income Distribution: Trusts like Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs) provide fixed annual payments to beneficiaries, with remaining assets going to charity, offering both tax benefits and income distribution.

Generation-Skipping Trusts:

  • Tax Benefits: These trusts provide tax advantages when the beneficiary is a grandchild or someone at least 37½ years younger than the grantor, allowing for the efficient transfer of wealth across generations.

By understanding these key differences and benefits, you can make informed decisions about which trust fund account types best suit your needs and goals.


At Pace CPA, we understand that choosing the right trust fund account types can be a complex decision. Our goal is to simplify this process for you, ensuring that you make informed choices that align with your financial goals and family needs.

Trusts are not just tools for the wealthy. They offer peace of mind by ensuring your assets go to the right people, avoiding the lengthy and public probate process. Whether you’re looking to secure your child’s education, provide for a loved one with special needs, or support a charitable cause, there’s a trust fund account type that suits your needs.

Our team at Pace CPA is committed to providing personalized fiduciary tax services. We help you navigate the complexities of trust accounts, ensuring your estate planning is legally sound and tailored to your unique circumstances.

Ready to take the next step? Reach out to us today and let us help you create a trust that protects your wealth and honors your intentions. Together, we can secure a prosperous financial future for you and your loved ones.


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