As more and more people move on to second and subsequent marriages — often with children from previous marriages — qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trusts have become increasingly popular. They allow people to leave assets to their surviving spouse while ensuring that any children and other beneficiaries will eventually receive an inheritance as well. This can alleviate the court battles that can make their way in to the media (and many that don’t) between adult children and a stepparent who inherits everything and shares nothing with them – or gives them only a pittance compared to their own biological children.

The way a QTIP trust works is that the grantor (the person making the estate plan) leaves assets in the trust to be paid out as income to the surviving spouse for the remainder of that spouse’s life. When the spouse passes away, the remaining assets in the trust are distributed as the grantor designates. They may go to children, siblings, charitable organizations and other beneficiaries. The surviving spouse has no authority to leave them to anyone else – for example, to someone they may have gone on to marry.

At least one trustee is typically designated to manage the trust and the assets in it. In some cases, this may include choosing the best investments for the assets in the trust to produce a healthy income or managing properties in the trust.

Another advantage of a QTIP trust is that the income from the trust is not taxable until after the surviving spouse has died. That can save them a considerable amount of money. Further, assets in a QTIP trust can’t be garnished or claimed by creditors.

A QTIP trust isn’t always the best choice. If a person is married to someone significantly younger than them (or in much better health), for example, their adult children from a previous marriage, who may be older than the new spouse, probably don’t want to wait decades to receive their inheritance.

There are plenty of options to ensure that both your surviving spouse and your children or other family members who aren’t related to that spouse are provided for. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you choose the right trusts and other estate planning tools for you and your family.