There are people who still think that trusts and estate planning are only needed by wealthy families to protect their millions and billions. However, that’s not true. Estate planning, wills and trusts are for every family who wants to protect their assets.
There are as many different types of trusts, as there are situations that call for their use. Knowing which trust you need and how it can work to benefit the family, is necessary before any trusts are created.
As Forbes explains in its recent article, “Revocable Trusts: The Swiss Army Knife Of Financial Planning,” trusts are a critical component of a proper estate plan. There are three parties to a trust: the owner of some property (settler or grantor) turns it over to a trusted person or organization (trustee) under a trust arrangement to hold and manage for the benefit of someone (the beneficiary). A written trust document will spell out the terms of the arrangement.
One of the most useful trusts is a revocable trust (inter vivos) where the grantor creates a trust, funds it, manages it by herself and has unrestricted rights to the trust assets (corpus). The grantor has the right at any point to revoke the trust, by simply tearing up the document and reclaiming the assets, or perhaps modifying the trust to accomplish other estate planning goals.
After discussing trusts with your attorney, he or she will draft the trust document and re-title property to the trust. The assets transferred to a revocable trust can be reclaimed at any time. The grantor has unrestricted rights to the property. During the life of the grantor, the trust provides protection and management, if and when it’s needed.
Let’s examine the potential lifetime and estate planning benefits that can be incorporated into the trust:
- Lifetime Benefits. If the grantor is unable or uninterested in managing the trust, the grantor can hire an investment advisor to manage the account in one of the major discount brokerages, or he can appoint a trust company to act for him.
- Incapacity. A trusted spouse, child, or friend can be named to care for and represent the needs of the grantor/beneficiary. She will manage the assets during incapacity without having to declare the grantor incompetent and petitioning for a guardianship. After the grantor has recovered, she can resume the duties as trustee.
- This can be a stressful legal proceeding that makes the grantor a ward of the state. This proceeding can be expensive, public, humiliating, restrictive and burdensome. However, a well-drafted trust (along with powers of attorney) avoids this.
The revocable trust is a great tool for estate planning because it bypasses probate, which can mean considerably less expense, stress and time.
In addition to a trust, ask your attorney about the rest of your estate plan: a will, powers of attorney, medical directives and other considerations.
Start by talking with an experienced estate planning attorney about what you want to achieve. This includes distribution of assets, minimization of taxes, passing wealth across generations, or protecting heirs from creditors. They will be able to create a plan, using trusts that are best suited for your unique situation.
Reference: Forbes (February 20, 2019) “Revocable Trusts: The Swiss Army Knife Of Financial Planning”