In some cases, equal allocation is formally built into the design of the trust, said Maloney, in what is called a “unitrust,” which aims to balance the benefits of the income recipients and principal recipients, or remaindermen, of the trust.

A grantor can also use a trust as a form of substitute will, especially in those cases when children have spouses and the grantor doesn’t want assets to pass directly to their children’s partners, in divorce cases for instance.

However, trusts do come with some costs, said Maloney.

“If I die, and I leave assets to my son or whoever else in a will, all accounts are forgiven and there’s a step-up in basis,” he said. “The problems we’re running into is that some of these old trusts are fairly substantial.”

In some cases, before the death of a second spouse, it might be preferable to terminate or break a trust and give the principal or corpus of the trust to the second spouse. That way she can pass it on through an investment account beneficiary process or her estate, and it allows the couple’s investments to step up in basis as they’re inherited. For families with high concentrations of wealth in low-cost-basis investments, allowing the step-up could provide more long-term tax benefits than the trust structure itself.

Maloney believes the supersized estate tax exemptions represent a new normal, though under current law, the $11.4 million exemption is scheduled to drop back to around $5 million in 2025.

“In 2025, I would wager that Congress will be wealthier than they are today—so it will never happen,” he said.

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