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Spendthrift Trusts: Providing for a Financially Irresponsible Beneficiary

As an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, I often come across situations where a parent wishes to provide for their child, but is concerned about that child’s ability to wisely spend the inheritance. This is where the spendthrift trust comes in. A spendthrift trust is a type of irrevocable trust designed to provide financial protection for a beneficiary, often because the settlor (the person creating the trust) has the aforementioned concerns about the beneficiary’s ability to manage money wisely. This type of trust restricts the beneficiary’s access to the trust funds and provides certain legal safeguards to prevent creditors or others from seizing the trust assets.

Here are key features and considerations related to spendthrift trusts:

  1. Asset Protection: The primary purpose of a spendthrift trust is to protect the trust assets from being accessed by the beneficiary’s creditors, including creditors seeking repayment of debts, judgments, or lawsuits. The assets held in the trust are typically shielded from claims of creditors.
  2. Trustee Control: In a spendthrift trust, a trustee is appointed to manage and distribute the trust funds according to the terms of the trust agreement. The trustee has discretion over when and how distributions are made to the beneficiary. 
  3. Restrictions on Beneficiary Access: The trust agreement may include specific provisions that limit the beneficiary’s access to the trust funds. For example, it can outline conditions under which distributions can be made, such as for the beneficiary’s education, healthcare, or other specific needs.
  4. Creditor Protection: Spendthrift trusts are designed to withstand legal challenges from creditors. Creditors generally cannot reach the trust assets to satisfy the beneficiary’s debts, except in limited circumstances, such as child support or alimony obligations.
  5. Exceptions: It’s important to note that there are exceptions to the creditor protection offered by spendthrift trusts. For example, in certain situations, creditors may be able to access a portion of the trust assets for specific types of debts. Additionally, fraudulent conveyance laws may come into play if a trust is established with the intent to defraud creditors.
  6. Irrevocable Nature: Spendthrift trusts are typically irrevocable, meaning that once established, the settlor generally cannot make significant changes or revoke the trust. This is because one of the key features of spendthrift protection is the permanence of the trust.
  7. Tax Considerations: The tax implications of a spendthrift trust can be complex, and they can vary depending on the specific terms of the trust and applicable tax laws. Consulting with a tax professional in addition to an estate planning attorney is essential when setting up such a trust to ensure compliance with tax laws.
  8. Beneficiary Behavior: A spendthrift trust may be appropriate if the beneficiary has a history of financial irresponsibility, addiction issues, or other concerns that make it advisable to limit their access to a lump sum of money.
  9. Estate Planning: Spendthrift trusts can be part of a broader estate plan to provide for a beneficiary’s needs while preserving assets for the long term. They can also be used to protect assets for future generations. For example, you have the ability to set up a spendthrift trust within your living trust, thereby providing for the beneficiary after you pass away in such a manner so as to protect the beneficiary and their inheritance.  


Creating a spendthrift trust requires careful consideration of the beneficiary’s needs and circumstances, as well as compliance with applicable laws. It’s important to work with an experienced Folsom estate planning attorney who can help you draft the trust agreement and navigate the legal and tax complexities associated with such trusts. If you have any questions about spendthrift trusts or the estate planning process in general, please contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message here

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