Can a Trust Lead to Good Behavior?

A trust that rewards heirs for desired behavior is known as an “incentive trust.” These kinds of trusts are popular among those who fear that their beneficiaries will not treat their inheritances with respect and are likely to waste vast amounts of resources. If you are considering setting up an incentive trust that will succeed, it needs to be done correctly.

Some wealthy families worry that their heirs may not be capable of handling large inheritances, and are concerned that the money may be squandered. In an effort to guide their heirs, they turn to incentive trusts to reward heirs who follow in what they consider to be the correct path.

For example, if you are creating a trust for a minor child, you might want to create a trust that rewards the child for graduating from college or getting a job.

Not all incentive trusts are created equally, however, and it is important to set one up properly or it is likely to fail.

Recently the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog published some tips in an article titled “Use An Incentive Trust to Make Sure Beneficiaries Stay On The Up And Up.”

The tips include:

  • Decide whether you want to create specific tasks for beneficiaries to perform to receive distributions or if you want to leave everything up to the discretion of the trustee.
  • Determine whether payments should be made directly to the beneficiary or to a third party. For example, if the trust is to provide money for school, should the trustee distribute that money to the school in the form of tuition or give it to the beneficiary to pay the school?
  • Decide how long the trust should exist. You can keep the trust in place for the beneficiary’s entire life, or you can set the trust to terminate at a certain point.
  • Decide what will happen to the trust assets if the beneficiary does not live up to expectations.
  • Make sure that all key conditions are spelled out in the trust.

It is important to note that some courts will not enforce incentive trusts that point to actions that are against public policy, such as requiring a person to marry a person of a certain race or religion.

Make sure to consult with an attorney about what types of conditions you can make.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (July 27, 2015) “Use An Incentive Trust to Make Sure Beneficiaries Stay On The Up And Up.”