what is a qtip trusts

What is a QTIP Trust?

A Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) trust is a specialized type of trust designed to provide income to a surviving spouse while preserving the principal for eventual distribution to other heirs, typically the children of the grantor. 

This type of trust allows the grantor to exercise control over the distribution of assets after the surviving spouse’s death, ensuring that the assets ultimately reach the intended beneficiaries. The QTIP trust is also used to take advantage of marital deductions for estate tax purposes while delaying estate taxes until the death of the surviving spouse. 

The surviving spouse receives income from the trust for life, but doesn’t have the ability to decide the final disposition of the trust assets, which is determined by the grantor’s stipulations in the trust document.

Pros and Cons of a QTIP Trust:


  • Tax Advantages: A QTIP trust allows for marital deductions in estate taxes when the first spouse dies, with taxes deferred until the surviving spouse’s death.
  • Control Over Assets: The grantor can control the ultimate distribution of the trust’s assets, which is beneficial if there are concerns about the surviving spouse’s management of the estate or if there are children from a previous marriage to consider.
  • Income for Surviving Spouse: The surviving spouse is guaranteed income from the trust during their lifetime, providing financial security.
  • Flexibility in Timing of Taxation: The grantor can determine when the assets will be taxed, which can be strategically advantageous.
  • Protection from Creditors: Assets within a QTIP trust are generally protected from the creditors of beneficiaries.


  • Irrevocability: Once the first spouse passes away, the QTIP trust becomes irrevocable, and the terms cannot be changed by the surviving spouse.
  • No Principal Access for Surviving Spouse: The surviving spouse usually has no access to the trust principal, which could be a drawback if financial circumstances change.
  • Complexity and Costs: Setting up and maintaining a QTIP trust can be complex and may involve higher costs than a straightforward will or other types of trusts.
  • Limited Benefit for Lower Estate Values: For estates that do not exceed the exemption threshold for estate taxes, the benefits of a QTIP trust may be less significant.
  • Dependency on Professional Management: The trust may require professional management to handle trust distributions and tax filings, which could be an added expense.

Is a QTIP Trust right for me?

Determining whether a QTIP trust is the right estate planning tool for you depends on several factors:

  • Marital Deduction: If you’re looking to take advantage of the marital deduction while ensuring that the remainder of your estate passes to beneficiaries of your choosing after your spouse’s death, a QTIP might be suitable.

  • Control Over Estate Distribution: If you want to maintain control over how your assets will be distributed after your surviving spouse’s death—perhaps to ensure that children from a previous marriage are provided for—a QTIP trust allows for this level of control.

  • Second Marriages: Those in second marriages with children from prior marriages might find a QTIP trust especially beneficial to balance the interests of their current spouse and their children.

  • Asset Protection: If protecting assets from potential future creditors of your surviving spouse or from their subsequent remarriage is important, a QTIP trust can offer a level of protection.

  • Tax Planning: For larger estates that may be subject to significant estate taxes, a QTIP trust can help to defer taxes until the death of the surviving spouse.

  • Assurance of Spousal Support: If providing your spouse with a steady income after your death is a priority, but you also want to ensure the principal goes to your designated beneficiaries, a QTIP trust can serve this purpose.

  • Professional Advice: It’s essential to seek the counsel of an estate planning attorney and possibly a tax advisor to understand the implications of a QTIP trust for your specific financial situation.

  • Long-term Financial Security: Consider if the loss of access to the principal of the trust might negatively impact your spouse’s long-term financial security, especially in light of changing economic conditions.


What is a QTIP trust?
A QTIP trust is a type of irrevocable trust that provides income to a surviving spouse and defers estate taxes until the spouse’s death, at which point the assets go to the named remainder beneficiaries.

How does a QTIP trust work?
The trust is funded upon the death of the first spouse. The surviving spouse receives income from the trust for life, and the principal is preserved for the next beneficiaries.

Who can be beneficiaries of a QTIP trust?
While the surviving spouse is the primary beneficiary of the trust income, the remainder beneficiaries, usually children or other heirs, are designated by the grantor.

Can a QTIP trust be changed?
A QTIP trust generally becomes irrevocable upon the death of the grantor, meaning that the terms of the trust cannot be changed by the surviving spouse.

What are the tax benefits of a QTIP trust?
A QTIP trust allows for the unlimited marital deduction on federal estate taxes when the first spouse dies, with taxes deferred until the death of the second spouse.

Is a QTIP trust right for everyone?
A QTIP trust is particularly useful for individuals with large estates concerned about estate taxes and who wish to control the distribution of assets after the surviving spouse’s death.

How does a QTIP trust protect assets?
Assets in a QTIP trust are protected from the surviving spouse’s creditors and from any subsequent marriages they may enter into.

What happens to a QTIP trust if the surviving spouse remarries?
The terms of the QTIP trust remain in effect regardless of remarriage, ensuring that the remainder beneficiaries will still inherit the assets.

Does funding a QTIP trust require both spouses’ assets?
No, a QTIP trust is typically funded with the assets of the deceased spouse, though a joint trust could potentially be split into a QTIP trust upon the death of one spouse.

Can the income beneficiary live in a house owned by the QTIP trust?
Yes, the terms of the QTIP can allow the surviving spouse to use a residence held within the trust, though such arrangements should be explicitly stated in the trust agreement.

Contact Battlefront Legal

Christopher R. Harrison, Esq is a registered attorney in the state of Nevada who stands out as a highly creative trust attorney who is dedicated to tailoring a trust that perfectly aligns with your unique requirements. His approach to estate planning is both innovative and client-focused, ensuring that your trust is crafted to serve your needs effectively. 

If you’re looking to establish a trust that is as unique as your estate, reach out to Christopher Harrison. Call him today at (775) 539-0000 or click here to start the conversation about securing your legacy.