February 8, 2022
Most estate planners recommend creating a basic estate plan, usually with a revocable trust as the centerpiece. Revocable trusts provide an easy, yet effective way to avoid probate in most states. In those states in which probate is not a concern, Estate Planning attorneys use trusts to provide asset and creditor protection or to protect a beneficiary from themself. As estate plans become more complex, they tend to involve more trusts. These trusts may contain large sums of money, sometimes all in one account. Many an estate planner has fielded a question from a client regarding how much of the funds in the trust were insured. If the funds are deposited in a bank or savings and loan that is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (“FDIC”), then it’s possible to answer that question although the rules can be confusing. Recently, those rules were simplified. To understand the changes fully, we must understand the protections offered under the existing framework.
Under the current rules, which remain in place until April 1, 2024, deposits are insured up to $250,000 per depositor, per ownership category, per institution. As a simple example, let’s assume that Johnny has $200,000 in BigBank and no other accounts anywhere. His entire $200,000 is covered. Now let’s assume that Johnny’s $200,000 was titled in a revocable trust, with Johnny as the sole grantor. Upon Johnny’s death, the assets will pass to his daughter, Lyla. For a revocable trust, the FDIC would insure up to $250,000 per institution, per trust beneficiary, up to a maximum of 5 beneficiaries for a total of $1,250,000. The rules look to the primary beneficiaries of the trust, which the FDIC defines as those individuals who would take upon the death of the grantor of the trust. Contingent beneficiaries and more remote beneficiaries are not considered. In our example above, then, Lyla is the sole beneficiary of the trust upon Johnny’s death meaning that the entire $200,000 would be protected. If Johnny had $500,000 in the account with BigBank, only $250,000 would be protected. He could, however, transfer $250,000 to HugeBank and that amount would be covered as well because it’s at a different institution. If Johnny had 5 children, all of whom were the beneficiaries of his revocable trust upon his death, then $1,250,000 in a revocable trust account at BigBank would be FDIC insured (5 x $250,000). If he had more than that, then he would have to transfer the overage to a new bank, keeping in mind that the FDIC insures no more than $250,000, per institution, per beneficiary, up to a maximum of $1,250,000 regardless of additional beneficiaries or funds. If Johnny were married and had a joint revocable trust, assuming that there were five beneficiaries that took upon the death of both grantors, then the FDIC would cover up to $2,500,000 at any one institution.
Let’s change the facts a bit and assume instead that Johnny’s trust is irrevocable. How does that change the analysis? If the beneficiaries of the trust can be identified and are non-contingent beneficiaries, then the FDIC insurance would work like it does for a revocable trust. If, however, some of the beneficial interests are contingent, then those contingent interests would be added together and insured up to a maximum of $250,000, regardless of the number of beneficiaries or the allocation of the funds among the beneficiaries. To demonstrate, let’s assume that Johnny has 5 children and that Lyla’s interest is the only non-contingent interest. If Johnny has $600,000 in BigBank, only $500,000 would be covered because the contingent interests would be added together and treated as one interest, notwithstanding that there are 4 contingent interest beneficiaries. Thus, $250,000 for Lyla’s non-contingent interest and $250,000 for the collective contingent interests would be covered.
Note that if the funds in an account represent both contingent and non-contingent interests, then the FDIC would separate those interests and apply the rules as described above. It’s easy to see how multiple trusts complicate these rules. Interestingly, according to the FDIC, it receives more inquiries related to insurance coverage for trusts than all other types of deposits combined. To simplify the rules, the FDIC issued new rules on January 21, 2022, with a delayed effective date of April 1, 2024.
The new rules merge the categories for revocable and irrevocable trusts and use a simpler, more consistent approach to determine coverage. Now, each grantor’s trust deposits will be insured up to the standard maximum amount of $250,000, multiplied by the number of beneficiaries of the trust, not to exceed five. It no longer matters whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable or whether the interests are contingent or fixed. These rules effectively limit coverage for a grantor’s deposits at each institution to $1,250,000 for a single grantor trust and $2,500,000 for a joint trust, assuming that there are five beneficiaries of such trusts. The streamlined rules provide depositors and bankers guidance that’s easy to understand and will facilitate the prompt payment of deposit insurance, when necessary.
While these rules do not go into effect immediately, it’s important that we begin understanding them now so that we can make any changes that may be necessary prior to the effective date. If you are concerned about FDIC coverage for trust accounts, or in general, talk with a qualified Estate Planning attorney. They can help you understand current coverage levels and advise you regarding any moves that you should make now or in the future to receive maximum FDIC insurance coverage.