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A-B Trust

A-B Trust

What Is A-B Trust?

A-B trust is a joint trust created by a married couple to limit estate taxes. It is formed with each spouse placing assets in the trust and naming as the final beneficiary any suitable person with the exception of the other spouse. The trust gets its name from the fact that it splits into two separate substances when one spouse kicks the bucket. Trust An is the survivor's endlessly trust B is the decedent's trust.

Understanding A-B Trust

Estate taxes can bite profoundly into a deceased person's assets. For example, consider a married couple that has an estate worth $20 million by the time one of the spouses kicks the bucket. The enduring spouse is left with the whole $20 million, which isn't taxed due to the unlimited marital deduction for assets flowing from a deceased spouse to an enduring spouse. But then, at that point, the other spouse passes on, leaving the money to their children. The taxable portion of the estate (the amount that surpasses the 2021 exemption threshold of $12 million; the exemption threshold for 2022 is $12,060,000) will be $8 million. This means that $8 million will be taxed at 40%, leaving just $4.8 million for the beneficiaries.

To evade the estate from being subject to such soak taxes, many married couples set up a trust under their last will and testaments called A-B trust. In the example above, in the event that the couple instead had A-B trust, the death of the first spouse wouldn't trigger any estate taxes because of the lifetime exclusion. Notwithstanding, a sum of money equal to the current exemption amount will be transferred into a irrevocable trust called the bypass trust, or B trust. This trust is also known as the decedent's trust. The remaining amount, $8 million, will be transferred to a survivor's trust, or A trust, which the enduring spouse will have complete control over. The estate tax on the A trust is deferred until after the death of the enduring spouse.

Advantages of A-B Trust

The A trust contains the enduring spouse's property interests, but they have limited control over the assets in the deceased spouse's trust. In any case, this limited control over the B trust will in any case enable the enduring spouse to reside in the couple's home and draw income from the trust, gave these terms are stipulated in the trust.

While the enduring spouse can access the bypass trust, if necessary, the assets in this trust will bypass their taxable estate after they bite the dust. After the enduring spouse passes on, just the assets in the A trust are subject to estate taxes. Assuming the estate tax exemption for this spouse is also $12 million for 2021 (the exemption threshold for 2022 is $12,060,000) and the value of assets in the survivor's trust is as yet valued at $8 million, none of it will be subject to estate tax.

The federal tax exemption is transferrable between married couples through a designation alluded to as the portability of the estate tax exemption. In the event that one spouse kicks the bucket, the unused portion of their estate tax exemption can be transferred and added to the estate tax exemption of the enduring spouse. Upon the death of the enduring spouse, the property in the decedent's trust passes tax-free to the beneficiaries named in this trust.

This is because the B trust goes through the estate tax exemption of the spouse that passed on first, consequently, any funds left in the decedent's trust will be passed tax-free. As the decedent's trust isn't viewed as part of the enduring spouse's estate for purposes of the estate tax, double-taxation is avoided.

Net Worth and A-B Trusts

On the off chance that the deceased spouse's estate falls under the amount of their tax exemption, then, at that point, it may not be necessary to establish a survivor's trust. The unused portion of the late spouse's federal tax exemption can be transferred to the enduring spouse's tax exemption by finishing up IRS Form 706.

While A-B trusts are a great way to limit estate taxes, they are not utilized a lot of today. They were popular in the decades around the turn of the 21st century when the estate tax — which hadn't been adjusted for a really long time — could be triggered on estates as small as $1 or $2 million. Nowadays, each individual has a combined lifetime federal gift tax and estate tax exemption of $11.7 million of every 2021, rising to $12.06 million for 2022. So just individuals with estates valued more than $11.7 million will opt for A-B trust in 2021. With the portability provision, an enduring spouse can incorporate the tax exemption of their late spouse, allowing up to $23.4 million as of 2021 and $24.12 million out of 2022, which can be transferred tax-free to beneficiaries.


  • Via the split, the A-B trust successfully limits estate taxes and concedes them until after the death of the enduring spouse.
  • A-B trust is a joint trust created by a married couple; upon one spouse's death, the trust splits into a survivor portion (the A trust) and a bypass portion (the decedent's trust, or B trust).
  • A-B trusts are not generally widely utilized as the estate tax exemption, which is presently indexed to inflation, is adequate for most estates.
  • The enduring spouse has limited control over the decedent's trust but the terms of the decedent's trust can be set to allow the enduring spouse to access the assets, and even draw income from them.