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Estate Planning
Estate Planning

Negotiating a Collection Agency Payment Plan: What You Need to Know

A woman walks down the street while talking on her phone.

Having a debt in collections can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re trying to do the right thing and make every effort to pay your debt. It can be even more stressful when the debt collector refuses to work with you. Learn what you need to know about collection agency payment plans below.

Can a Debt Collector Refuse a Payment Plan?

It’s important to know that collection agencies aren’t legally obligated to accept or agree to payment plans. Debt collectors don’t have to work with you or agree to any payment schedules based on what you’re reasonably able to afford. Their goal is to collect as much of the debt as they can as quickly as they can.

Collection agencies don’t often work out extended or long-term payment plans. They are collectors, not lenders. They aren’t interested in slowly collecting monthly payments.

Is My Debt Past the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations for creditors/collectors to file a lawsuit is based on the date of the last payment on the debt. The statute of limitations, which varies by state, restarts when you make any payment to a creditor. If you have attempted to make small monthly payments because you assumed the collector would ease up if they saw any money coming in, then you might simply have extended the collector’s ability to file a lawsuit on the debt.

Best Step: Pay Off a Debt in Collections

You can take some actions to validate the debt and ensure it’s accurate and truly owed. Make sure you understand your rights and stand up for them. But once you know you owe the money, the best step is often to pay off the debt. Even if you can’t pay off all of your debt, try to pay as much as you can.

What About Collection Agency Payment Plans?

If you can’t afford to pay the debt with cash on hand and can’t manage to restructure debt or loans to cover the balance, then you may need to make arrangements with the collection agency. You typically have two options: a settlement or a payment arrangement.

What Is a Settlement?

A settlement occurs when you pay part of the total owed, and the collector agrees to consider the account paid in full. Debt collectors are more likely to negotiate a settlement, often at much lower amounts, if they think there’s a chance that they may not be able to collect at all. You may be able to settle a debt for 50% or less of the total balance, for example.

In many cases, collection companies purchase these debts from creditors for pennies on the dollar. Obviously, they want to collect as much as possible. But as long as they collect more than they paid for the debt, it’s still a profit for them.

To negotiate a settlement, you’ll need some cash immediately to pay the agreed-upon amount. You may also owe taxes on the amount that is forgiven. The IRS considers forgiven debt as income for that year.

Do Collection Agencies Do Payment Plans?

Some collection agencies do consider payment plans. However, they are not legally obligated to agree to a payment plan. And in some cases, even if they agree to a payment plan, they may change the agreement later or file a lawsuit for the remaining amount owed. When entering into a payment agreement with a collection agency, make sure you get everything signed and in writing.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay a Collection Agency?

If you don’t pay a collection agency and you do owe the money, the collection agency may eventually file a lawsuit against you. If the agency gets a judgment in that lawsuit, it can seek repayment of the debt via legal methods such as wage garnishment or freezing your bank accounts.

What to Do if a Debt Collector Won’t Accept a Payment Plan

If you can’t pay the original creditor for any reason and the debt collector won’t work with you on a payment plan, you may need to find another way to make good on this debt. Luckily, you might have some options for other types of debt relief.

Consider a balance transfer card or consolidation loan to pay off the debt and make it “new” again. While you’ll still owe the money, you’ll owe it to a new creditor that has agreed to an account setup that lets you make monthly payments. It keeps you in debt a little longer, but if you make regular agreed-upon payments, it could raise your credit score in the long-term to make up for any hit you took on the collection

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Estate Planning, Financial Planning

Simple Trusts vs. Complex Trusts

Young couple consults with a financial advisor about trusts

A trust can be a useful estate planning tool, in addition to a will. You can use a trust to remove assets from probate, potentially minimize estate and gift taxes and ensure that assets are managed on behalf of beneficiaries according to your wishes. There are different types of trusts you can establish and some are more specialized than others. Knowing how these broad categories of trusts compare can help with choosing the right option. When it comes to estate planning, including whether to create a trust, a financial advisor can help you make the most informed decision possible.

What Is a Trust?

Infant holding hand of father

A trust is a type of legal entity that can be created in accordance with your state laws to manage your assets. The person who creates a trust is called a grantor and they have the right to transfer assets into the trust. They can also choose one or more trustees to oversee the trust and manage the assets within it.

The trustee’s job is to manage assets according to the grantor’s specifications on behalf of one or more trust beneficiaries. For example, you might set up a trust to hold assets that you want to be distributed among your three children when you pass away. Or you might choose your favorite charitable organization to be a beneficiary of your trust.

There are many different kinds of trusts and they can be categorized in different ways. For instance, a revocable trust can be changed during the grantor’s lifetime. If you have this type of trust and you want to add assets to it or change the beneficiaries, you can do so while you’re still living. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, involves a permanent transfer of assets.

Trusts can also be categorized as grantor or non-grantor. In a grantor trust, the trust creator retains certain powers over the trust, including rights to the trust’s assets and income. Trust assets may be included in the trust creator’s estate when they pass away. With a non-grantor trust the trust creator has no interest or control over trust assets. Trust assets are generally excluded from the trust creator’s estate at their death.

Benefits of Trusts in Estate Planning

Trusts can be used inside an estate plan to perform a number of functions. For example, you might create a trust to:

  • Pass on specific assets to your chosen beneficiaries
  • Ensure that certain assets aren’t subject to the probate process
  • Manage estate and gift tax liability
  • Protect assets from creditors
  • Ensure that a special needs beneficiary is cared for when you’re gone
  • Receive the proceeds of a life insurance policy when you pass away

Some of these scenarios may call for a simple trust, while others may require a more specialized trust. One thing that’s important to keep in mind is how each one is treated for tax purposes when creating a simple vs. complex trust.

Simple Trust, Explained

A simple trust is a type of non-grantor trust. To be classified as a simple trust, it must meet certain criteria set by the IRS. Specifically, a simple trust:

  • Must distribute income earned on trust assets to beneficiaries annually
  • Make no principal distributions
  • Make no distributions to charity

With this type of trust, the trust income is considered taxable to the beneficiaries. That’s true even if they don’t withdraw income from the trust. The trust reports income to the IRS annually and it’s allowed to take a deduction for any amounts distributed to beneficiaries. The trust itself is required to pay capital gains tax on earnings.

Complex Trust, Explained

A complex trust also has certain criteria it must meet. In order for a trust to be complex, it must do one of the following each year:

  • Refrain from distributing all of its income to trust beneficiaries
  • Distribute some or all of the principal assets in the trust to beneficiaries
  • Make distributions to charitable organizations

Any trust that doesn’t meet the guidelines to qualify as a simple trust is considered to be a complex trust. Complex trusts can take deductions when computing taxable income for the year. This deduction is equal to the amount of any income the trust is required to distribute for the year.

There are also some other rules to keep in mind with complex trusts. First, no principal can be distributed unless all income has been distributed for the year first. Ordinary income takes first place in the distribution line ahead of dividends and dividends have to be distributed ahead of capital gains. Once those conditions are met, then the principal can be distributed. And all distributions have to be equitable for all trust beneficiaries who are receiving them.

Simple vs. Complex Trust: Which Is Better?

When it comes to simple and complex trusts, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. The type of trust that ultimately works best for you can hinge on what you need the trust to do for you.

A simple trust offers the advantage of being fairly straightforward when it comes to how assets and income can be distributed and how those distributions are taxed. A complex trust, on the other hand, could offer more flexibility in terms of estate planning if you have a sizable estate or numerous beneficiaries.

When comparing trust options, consider whether you want to retain control or an interest in the assets that are transferred to it. If you choose a simple or complex trust, you’re choosing a non-grantor trust which means you’ll no longer have an interest in the trust assets. Talking to an estate planning attorney or trust professional can help you decide which type of trust may work best for your financial situation.

The Bottom Line

Helping hand concept picture

The main difference between a simple vs. complex trust lies in how income and assets are distributed and how those distributions are taxed. Whether it makes sense to establish a simple vs. complex trust can depend on the size of your estate, the nature of the assets you want to include and your wishes for managing those assets. It’s important to understand the tax rules before creating either type of trust as well as how a trust fits into your larger estate plan.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about whether it makes sense to use a trust to plan ahead for the distribution of assets or to manage estate and gift taxes. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with a financial advisor in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While trusts can offer numerous benefits, creating one doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t also need a last will and testament. You can use a will to distribute assets that you don’t want to include in a trust. Or you could create a pour-over will to transfer assets into a trust.

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The post Simple Trusts vs. Complex Trusts appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com