Trust & Wealth Transfer Planning

Leaving a legacy is about passing on important values, helping heirs become effective stewards of wealth and implementing your vision for the future.

Whether you are looking to minimize estate taxes, establish vehicles to address your philanthropic goals or use insurance to provide liquidity to offset estate taxes, your private wealth advisor will work with you and your team of legal and tax advisors to incorporate your wealth transfer goals into your estate plan.

Leverage revocable and irrevocable trusts that can help you protect and preserve your assets, minimize federal or estate taxes, and address complex family dynamics while also incorporating a thoughtful gifting strategy that allows you to see the impact firsthand and helps assure your assets are transferred and used as you intend.

Trusts Services

With the experience and resources to administer complex personal and charitable trusts, we can serve as: Trustee or executor, providing a full-range of fiduciary asset management and administrative services; Co-trustee or co-executor, with an individual of your choosing; Agent, allowing you, or the person appointed, to control investment decisions and discretionary distributions, while receiving support from Bank of America.

Learn more about the role a trust can play in your wealth transfer plan.

Wealth strategies to meet your complex needs

When you want to share the benefits of your wealth with the people you care about, we will work with you to identify the right trust strategy to meet your needs and supports your family and future generations in a tax-efficient manner.

  • Generation-skipping trusts that can help you build and protect your legacy for future generations while minimizing the transfer tax consequences. Assets in the trust are subject to federal estate and gift taxes (though no tax may be due if you have a sufficient amount of exemption remaining) only once — when they are transferred to the trust. The trust can also be exempt from the generation-skipping transfer tax if the donor's GST exemption is properly allocated.
  • Grantor-retained annuity trusts that can help you give to those you care about during your lifetime while minimizing federal gift taxes. The goal is for the value of the assets transferred to the trust to be as low as possible, but likely to appreciate over a short period of time.
  • Intentionally defective grantor trusts that allow you to transfer the appreciation of assets to your beneficiaries, free of gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes, provided your GST exemption is allocated properly.
  • Access to Delaware trust services, such as dynasty trusts, that are established under Delaware state law, and can help minimize taxes, preserve financial confidentiality, as well as, transfer ownership in a private business while you maintain day-to-day management control.
  • Charitable trusts, such as charitable lead trusts (CLT) or charitable remainder trusts (CRT), that allow you to support the philanthropic causes you care about, while also offering you a range of additional benefits, such as providing you or your heirs with an income stream, minimizing gift taxes and deferring capital gains taxes.
  • Trusteed IRAs that combine the tax benefits of a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA with greater control over how your assets are distributed.

Preparing for your wealth transfer

We understand the complexities that wealth brings, as well as the complications that can arise once the founding generation is no longer able to take an active role in providing direction and preserving a common family vision. We’ll work with you to identify and address the communication, planning and family governance issues that can help keep future generations unified around the goals that are important to you.

Your private wealth advisor, together with a private wealth strategist, works with your team of legal and tax advisors to identify an overall wealth transfer plan and the individual elements that may be needed to address your specific goals to help you create the legacy you envision.

Connect with a Merrill Private Wealth Advisor.

Frequently asked questions

Trusts are financial tools that give you specific control over how your wealth is used and protected. You can think of a trust as a container for your assets. When you establish a trust, you work with a lawyer and financial advisors to establish rules on what happens to the assets in your trust, who will manage it, and who the beneficiaries of the trust are.


Revocable trusts are a legal entity that allows you to structure your wealth. These kinds of trusts allow you to retain as much control as you like over the trust and the assets you place in it. You can serve as trustee of your own revocable trust, change the trust’s terms whenever you like, add or withdraw assets at any time and name a successor trustee to take over should you no longer wish or be able to serve as trustee.

Your ability to transfer almost any type of asset to the trust, including financial assets, real estate and even private business interests, makes them helpful in consolidating and managing assets. You can also use a revocable trust to document how you want the assets in the trust to be managed, distributed and used after you are gone.


Irrevocable trusts are a legal entity that allows you to structure your wealth. These kinds of trusts allow you to permanently remove assets from your taxable estate and cannot be changed once executed. Irrevocable trusts can be used to provide for a spouse and children from a prior relationship, help ensure that your heirs manage and use funds wisely and minimize federal and state wealth transfer taxes.


Estate planning is the process of documenting and putting in place the legal documents that describe your intentions as clearly and completely as possible so that others know your wishes after your death, or if you are incapacitated. Important parts of every estate plan include:

  • A will that can provide the strongest and most widely recognized platform for expressing your final wishes. Remember that a will is most effective when it's signed by you in the presence of witnesses.
  • An advance care directive that acts as the formal name for a living will. You can use one to specify the course of your medical treatment at times when you cannot articulate choices for yourself. But remember, state laws vary on the strength and enforceability of advance care directives.
  • A health care proxy that lets you designate someone to make choices about your medical care when you are unable to do so. Like the advance care directive, the power and range of a health care proxy's authority is dictated by state law, which varies widely.
  • Statements of intent that allow you to lay out your philosophy and preferences for the guardians and trustees who will be asked to carry out your wishes. Statements of intent are your opportunity to articulate expectations for your dependents. You can also state desires that might not customarily be included in a will and trust documents.


An estate plan is comprised of a range of components — all based on your needs and wishes for how you want your assets to be handled after your death. These inputs can help your professional advisors assist you in choosing the types of personal trusts, insurance and other estate-planning tools that may best achieve your goals. While each estate plan is unique, in most cases it will need to document your wishes for issues like:

  • How you want your assets distributed after you die
  • How you want to provide for a spouse, children, grandchildren or other family members
  • Your charitable giving wishes
  • Any other special requests or wishes that you want taken care of after death


Once your plan is established, periodic reviews are required to ensure the plan continues to meet your goals.


There are three main benefits of trusts:

  • More control: You can use a trust to set rules about when and how the trust beneficiaries receive assets from the trust. They can also help you reach your charitable goals or improve the tax efficiency of your estate.
  • A measure of protection: Trusts can help ensure your children or grandchildren or other beneficiaries receive assets if you divorce or remarry. They can help protect assets from some forms of litigation. And you can dictate how proceeds of a trust can be spent adding an additional level of protection for your heirs.
  • Investment guidance: A trust allows you to designate a professional money manager to help protect you and your heirs from costly financial mistakes. This form of financial stewardship can provide peace of mind for you and the trust’s beneficiaries.


Trusts are just one part of a larger estate plan. Your estate is the sum total of all your assets that you own after you die. While a trust, or set of trusts, may be part of your estate, they rarely cover the entirety of your estate. Trusts are a powerful tool and can be part of a comprehensive estate plan that you create with the help of your financial and legal advisors.


Trust, fiduciary and investment management services, including assets managed by the Specialty Asset Management team, are provided by Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC and wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”), and its agents.

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