Continuing Legal Education

TELESEMINAR: Incentive Trusts in Estate Planning: Promise and Peril – A National Perspective

October 15, 2014
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
1.00 MCLE hours


Incentive trusts are a mechanism by which the settlor tries to “incentivize” or control the behavior of beneficiaries. Settlors may want to encourage children or grandchildren to achieve certain educational milestones, maintain a job, get married or have children, or remain free of substance abuse or other risky behaviors. A beneficiary’s attainment of these behavioral benchmarks triggers certain distributions. In a sense, it is an estate planning mechanism for awarding settlor cash for good beneficiary behavior. But there are serious limits. There are the limits of what the law will allow a settlor to demand of a beneficiary or a trustee to enforce.  There are also practical limits, including how to objectively judge a beneficiary’s behavior when making distributions.  Incentive trusts are decidedly a mixed bag. This program will provide you with a real-world guide to drafting incentive trusts, counseling clients about their effectiveness and limits, and understanding what the law will (or won’t) allow. 


  • Uses and limitations – practical and legal – of incentive trusts
  • Types of incentive trusts – and rates of success or failure in achieving settlor goals
  • Increasing the enforceability of incentive trusts – and what’s not enforceable
  • Structuring incentives so they can be objectively measured and administered by trustees
  • Drafting distribution provisions
  • Alternatives to incentive trusts, including “principle trusts”
  • Counseling clients about downsides of incentive trusts


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Program Speaker:
John A. Warnick,
Purposeful Planning Institute, Colorado



John A. Warnick is an attorney and wealth counselor in Denver, Colorado, with a national estate and trust planning practice. He is widely recognized for his counseling of high net worth families on purposeful giving, the process of not only transferring wealth but creating a lasting legacy. He is also the managing collaborator of the Purposeful Planning Institute and a wealth consultant with Family Wealth and Transition Solutions.  Mr. Warnick is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and formerly practiced law with Holme, Roberts & Owen, LLP in Denver.  He received his B.A. from Brigham Young University and his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School.