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Inheritance and creditors: How to help protect your loved ones

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2019 | Trusts |

For many people, a crucial piece of planning their legacy is helping their loved ones. By passing assets to those you care about, you can continue supporting them long into the future. This plan can become problematic, however, if the person to whom you want to leave an inheritance has debts.

A creditor taking a bite out of a legacy is not part of anyone’s estate plan. Here is what you should know to plan ahead.

Creditors and inheritance

Many people wonder whether it’s possible for a creditor to pursue repayment out of an inheritance. They can’t do so directly, but there is one option many aggressive collection agencies use.

While a creditor isn’t able to simply demand part of the money from an inheritance, they can file a lawsuit. The creditor might then receive a judgment, allowing them to collect from the debtor. It could be through wage garnishment, a bank account levy order or even via a property lien.

So yes, a creditor could find a way to take a bit out of an inheritance you leave a loved one. Options exist, however, to ward off such actions.

Leveraging a trust

A trust, at its core, is a legal entity that holds certain assets for a specific person or people, and for a specified purpose. The person creating the trust – referred to as the grantor or trustor – sets these stipulations and directions.

There are different types of trusts, and within those types, even further variations meant to address certain concerns or achieve precise goals.

When you put certain assets and property into the trust, you no longer legally own them – the trust does. You then appoint a trustee to manage its contents based on the guidelines you created. It’s also possible to use a will and trust in concert together to accomplish this, something an experienced attorney can help you set up.

When it comes to shielding inheritance from creditors, you’ll likely want to consider what’s called an irrevocable trust. Once created irrevocable trusts are difficult to modify, but they have a benefit: In general, creditors can not come after assets that are part of an irrevocable trust.

That means if you use an irrevocable trust to pass inheritance to a loved one, it is much more protected than if you were to use a will. This helps ensure your wishes are followed, and the person to whom you’re passing a piece of your legacy is shielded from opportunistic creditors.

Estate planning can be a complicated endeavor. Because of this, it’s generally a good idea to enlist the help of an attorney. They can help determine the best options for achieving your goals, while ensuring all the necessary documents are properly written, legally valid and will hold up under scrutiny.