Spousal Protection Trust Provisions (QTIP)

A QTIP Trust, which stands for “Qualified Terminable Interest Property” Trust, is a type of trust commonly used in estate planning to provide benefits to a surviving spouse and to maintain control over how the trust’s assets are distributed after the surviving spouse’s death.

Here’s how a QTIP Trust typically works and its key features:

Benefits to Surviving Spouse

The primary benefit of a QTIP Trust is that it provides for the surviving spouse during their lifetime. The surviving spouse receives income from the trust and, depending on the terms of the trust, may also receive distributions of principal for health, maintenance, and support.

Control Over Asset Distribution

The grantor of the trust (the person who creates the trust) can specify how the assets in the trust will be distributed upon the death of the surviving spouse. This allows the grantor to ensure that the assets ultimately go to beneficiaries of the grantor’s choosing (e.g., children from a previous marriage).

Estate and Gift Tax Benefits

A QTIP Trust allows the grantor to take advantage of the unlimited marital deduction for estate and gift taxes. This means that assets transferred into the trust are not subject to estate taxes until the death of the surviving spouse. This can be particularly useful in situations where the first spouse to die has a larger estate that might otherwise be subject to high estate taxes.


For a trust to qualify as a QTIP Trust, certain conditions must be met:

  • The surviving spouse must receive all the income from the trust, at least annually, for life.
  • No one, including the surviving spouse, can appoint any part of the trust to anyone else during the surviving spouse’s lifetime (i.e., the surviving spouse cannot change the ultimate beneficiaries of the trust).
  • The QTIP election, which allows the trust to be treated as qualifying for the marital deduction, must be made by the executor of the estate on the estate tax return.


While the QTIP Trust provides income to the surviving spouse, it can also include provisions for distributions beyond income under certain conditions, such as for health care expenses, living expenses, or other needs.

Final Disposition

Upon the surviving spouse’s death, the assets in the QTIP Trust are included in the surviving spouse’s estate for estate tax purposes. The assets are then distributed according to the terms set by the first spouse to die, providing control over the disposition of the estate’s assets.

A QTIP Trust can be an effective tool in estate planning, especially for couples in second marriages or those who want to ensure that their assets benefit the surviving spouse while still controlling how those assets are ultimately distributed. It’s often advised to work with an estate planning attorney to set up a QTIP Trust to ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the trust operates as intended.

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