It is not uncommon that wealthy individuals are concerned with leaving large sums of money to specific beneficiaries for the fear of those individuals acting irresponsibly with access to such a massive chunk of cash. To resolve this dilemma and to provide access to funds if income for a given year was low, trusts can include a "5 by 5 Power" to allow greater flexibility.

A majority of trusts are established to protect assets, and to provide for the ongoing well being of a specific loved one. In doing this, these trusts typically allow the beneficiary access to funds from the trust for an ascertainable standard relating to their health, education, support and maintenance. Many trusts will also allow the beneficiary access to the income that is produced from the trust investments each year.

In addition to this ascertainable standard and income payout benefit, the "5 by 5 Power" can be added, which allows access to the greater of: a) $5,000 per year, or b) 5% of the fair market value of the trust per year. This can help to guarantee an income beneficiary a minimum dollar distribution, regardless of the income generated from the trust. Be aware: should the beneficiary elect NOT to exercise their 5 by 5 Power over the year(s), adverse tax consequences could arise.

(Learn more about trusts by reading Pick The Perfect Trust.)

The question was answered by Steven Merkel.

The Advisor Insight

The primary reason individuals create a trust is to establish detailed instructions for the delivery of their assets after they have passed and can't direct the assets themselves. Where a will can instruct a one-time delivery of assets, the structure of a trust can provide ongoing guidance.

The “5 by 5 Power” is simply a way to provide some parameters around the access a beneficiary has to the funds in a trust. It basically means that in each calendar year, they have access to $5,000 or 5% of the trust assets, whichever is greater.

So if the trust has $10,000 in it, a beneficiary can take out $5,000 even though this is 50% of the trust corpus. Conversely, if the trust has $10 million they can withdraw $500,000 under this arrangement.


Adam Harding
Adam C. Harding, CFP® Investments & Financial Planning
Scottsdale, AZ