Trust planning is the topic of this month’s Legal Brief. You work hard building assets over a lifetime. Trust planning allows you to decide how assets are distributed among your beneficiaries. More specialized, complex trusts ensure trust assets are used exactly as you intend.
What about those greedy relatives?
Remember the Baudelaire children from our previous Legal Brief about Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Let’s look at another way parents with children of any age can protect their legacy.
In Lemony Snicket’s tale the Baudelaire children are left with a significant family fortune when their parents die. Their uncle hopes to gain access to this vast fortune by taking in the children. When that does not work he tries to marry Violet, the oldest daughter, so he can access the family wealth. Hopefully your relatives are not awful like Count Olaf; yet, sometimes you only find out who people truly are after someone passes away. So, what is the estate planning remedy for greedy relatives or even your child’s questionable spouse?
Trust planning ensures your family fortune, no matter the amount, stays with your children; not in the hands of a greedy relative, in-law, creditor, or even used in an unintended manner by your children.
There are many ways to write trusts to ensure your wishes are met. The general starting point for trust planning is a revocable living trust. When properly funded, this type of trust allows trust assets to pass directly to beneficiaries bypassing the probate process. Bypassing probate also keeps your wishes private. Additionally, if a surviving spouse remarries a revocable living trust can be built to keep existing family assets within the family. The surviving spouse can access assets but when they pass away trust assets continue down to your children and grandchildren instead of going to an unintended beneficiary.
More specific concerns?
Maybe you have a child with a disability? Consider a special needs trust. A special needs trust prevents a large lump sum from an inheritance going directly to a beneficiary. Instead, a trustee manages the trust and assets. Money is given on an as needed basis for anything not provided through other benefits or programs. This can be especially useful when needs based programming covers only the minimum services. This specialized trust allows you to protect and provide for your loved ones with special needs and circumstances when you are no longer able to do so, while still allowing them to maintain their other benefits.
Is one of your children caught up in drugs or debt? Consider a heritage trust. A heritage trust could help in Violet’s situation with her uncle or if some other gold-digger comes along and tries to marry her for the family fortune. How? Heritage trust planning allows you to name a trustee who can manage trust assets. This person or institution provides the beneficiary with funds for reasonable requests (e.g., housing, education, etc.). The trustee acts as a gatekeeper. Trust assets pass from your child to grandchildren or other beneficiaries. This shelters trust assets, keeping them within your family or named beneficiaries for multiple generations. Trust assets are also protected from creditors, lawsuits, and from spouses or others not directly named as beneficiaries.
What exactly is a trustee?
Your trustee is the person who manages and distributes trust assets after your passing. As with any decision regarding finances, choose your trustee carefully. Appoint someone to this role who you will take their responsibility seriously. Someone you trust to carry out your wishes and manage trust assets wisely. Allowing assets to grow and benefit your family members for years to come.
Remember: trusts do not go through the probate process like a will, so your decisions remain private. Give yourself peace of mind today by taking care of your estate planning with Stone Law! Make your guardianship wishes known in your will and put together trust planning to ensure your assets go where you want them to.