A marital trust is an estate planning instrument through which a person is able to provide for his surviving spouse while ensuring the inheritance for his heirs. Once the first spouse dies, the assets get transferred to the trust where they start generating income.
A marital trust can be arranged so that the surviving spouse receives principal payments. The designated heirs become the beneficiaries of the marital trust once the second spouse dies. A marital trust allows a married couple to transfer assets while avoiding estate taxes. Marital trust assets normally become subject to estate taxes after the second spouse dies, but that can be avoided by combining the marital trust with a credit shelter trust.