6 Steps to Doing Your Kids' Trust Fund Right

By Rick Kahler

NEW YORK ( AdviceIQ) -- How do you stop your offspring squandering their inheritance? When passing wealth to your kids, consider creating a trust to limit the later generation's ability to tap into the principal.

Several astute readers suggested this strategy after my recent article cited research that shows 90% of inherited wealth is gone by the third generation.

There is no question a trust, done correctly, can go a long way to preserve wealth after the death of the wealth accumulator. Let's explore what "done correctly" means.

1. Trust law is complex. Engage an accountant and attorney with strong skills and expertise in trusts.

2. Be sure the assets you intend to go into the trust will actually transfer.

Retirement plans such as individual retirement accounts, 401(k)'s and profit-sharing plans will pass to whomever you listed as the beneficiary. This must be the trust. In addition, the trust must include a number of special provisions for a retirement plan to be distributed according to your wishes and not as a fully taxable lump sum.

Annuities, insurance policies and accounts with a transfer-on-death clause will also pass to the named beneficiary.

Assets held in joint tenancy will not. Many married couples jointly own most of their major assets, such as the family home, investment real estate, brokerage accounts or bank accounts.

3. Be sure there are enough assets in the trust to justify the trustee fees. Most professional corporate trustees charge $3,500 to $10,000 annually, or up to 1% of the trust assets. If a trust with $100,000 incurs an annual fee of $3,500, your hard-earned estate will benefit the trustee as much as your heirs. A trust probably doesn't make financial sense if the total fees exceed 2%.