A trust is not a perfect solution. What it does if properly implimented is a great solution to most concerns and questions. But properly implimneted is the key phrase.
It has been pointed out by attorneys and other experts that there are three problems with a Trust. First, it needs to be executed properly which means ‘funded’. The owneship of assets needs to be changed into the name of the trust. This is often left up to the trust owner, who is unfamiliar with the process and very often does not complete the process. The attorney who drafted the trust can help, but as I have been told, “at my hourly rate, the client could not afford to have me help them”.
Secondly, life happens. Changes are made. Things are bought and sold and accounts move around. A periodic review of the trust and assets is important to assure all is properly recorded in the ownership of the trust. If something is out of the trust it is subject to probate, defeating the original purpose. Lastly is the help that is needed at death. Settling a trust can be time consuming and costly if the only option is to enlist the services of an attorney.
In answer to these concerns a few companies have arisen whose purpose it is to service a trust. These Trust Service Companies provide lifetime services to their customers, assuring that their estate plan is more than just a document in a drawer.
Working with independent, state licensed, qualified estate planning attorneys, these companies are able to package together both the legal services of the attorney with non-legal services to provide a complete plan. These non-legal services include the delivery of the trust, notarization and witness signatures, funding assistance, periodic reviews and end of life settlement.
This approach to estate planning is a Once and Done program. Knowing that I will receive a phone call each year to set up our review is incredibly comforting. I no longer have to concern myself with whether my family will have the help they will need, and the fees have already been paid. I did it once and now I am done.
During these reviews, which are more appropriatly called ‘continuing education sessions’ my wife and I are able to ask questions and reclarify what and why we set up the trust. A review is made of anything we may have done through the year that could affect the trust, and appropriate changes are made.
My wife and I, as well as my children, have a phone number to call to ask questions and get assistance if either of us should die or fall ill. My estate is not large, but it is just as important as another and my family will be treated with care and compassion. Rather than leaving them to figure it out on their own, a plan has been put into place, prefunded, and assured.