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Walton family protects $100 billion fortune with trusts

Millions of people in New Jersey and other states shop regularly at Wal-Mart. Consequently, the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, has more than $100 billion in assets, making it one of the wealthiest families in the world.

The Waltons have made several critical estate planning decisions that have enabled them to protect their assets from estate taxes. For individuals that have more than $5.25 million or couples with more than $10.5 million, estate taxes are as high as 40 percent. However, the Waltons have largely avoided these taxes by setting up various trusts, the majority of which benefit charitable organizations. The Waltons are not an anomaly; the majority of wealthy American families take advantage of various tax loopholes to avoid paying estate taxes.

The Waltons have hired a small staff to help them manage their finances. Fortunately, many of the actions that the family takes to avoid estate taxes also benefit the community. In the last 10 years, they’ve placed $9 billion in charitable trusts. Members of the Walton family have also contributed to lobbying efforts aimed at preventing the government from closing tax loopholes.

Because the Waltons and other powerful families work to prevent reform in this area, it is quite possible that the country’s richest families will continue to protect their wealth from estate taxes.

Although most families do not have wealth that rivals the Walton family, it is important to make prudent decisions regarding your estate. It can be helpful for people to work with an estate planning attorney who can help them with asset protection.

Source: St. Louis Dispatch, “Trusts allow Walton family to safeguard wealth,” Zachary R. Mider, Sep. 14, 2013

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