Last week a question was asked that comes up often when I talk with someone regarding estate planning with a trust.
The question usually begins with something like; “Can’t I accomplish the same thing …?” It’s a similar thought I had when I first learned about Trusts over two decades ago. Since then, with all that I have learned, all the stories I have heard, and all the experiences in my own life and family, the question has really become, Why would I not want a Trust?
While a trust is not the ideal estate planning tool for everyone, it certainly is worth considering for a wide variety of reasons. While I am not an attorney (although I do work with some highly qualified and vastly experienced ones), I would think that anyone with a family or a home has much to gain by learning what a trust is and what it does in helping your wishes come to pass.
When the question is asked, can’t I accomplish this…, it is usually followed by a sound solution for a specific need. But it is often a solution that is not designed to solve the whole problem. It might even be one of the steps in putting together a comprehensive plan, but alone, it falls short. PODs, TODs, and Deed Titles are examples of these.
A serious wound requires a full gauze wrapping and preparing for a hurricane requires large sheets of plywood. We would never consider using a few band-aids or a couple of 2 x 4s. In the same way, a trust can be a total solution, keeping the storm out of our home and away from our family.
Did you know that Trusts were first designed in the old Roman empire where wealthy landowners assured that their estates would pass ‘per stirpes’, to their bloodline? They came to this country on the same boat that brought us Wills.
Like many laws of our country, they silently sit on the books until someone figures out a way that they can be beneficial and profitable. Many of us have Section 125, Cafeteria Plans, Flexible Spending Plans, or Health Savings Accounts. The federal laws allowing these plans were passed long before they were put into use to make rising medical costs and premiums more palatable. In the same way, Trusts are available to everyone as an option other than a Will, but only some people have been educated to the benefits because it hasn’t been profitable to do so.
In the same light, there are many people who do have trusts, and the number is growing. These folks have learned that probate is an option that they don’t want to put their loved ones through. That the cost, hassle, and delay of probate is unnecessary, and they choose to remove it from their future. That the assets they worked hard to accumulate should go 100% to their family. Our members also enjoy periodic reviews and knowing that someone will be there to help guide their spouses and loved ones through whatever is needed when the inevitable happens. Is your family any less important?
These are not the kind of assurances one has when using simple band-aids to solve a bigger and very unknown situation. The what, how, when, and who are unanswered questions that leave us uncertain about the future.
Too often, the desire to find an alternative solution using various ‘band-aids’ is a desire to save money or avoid working with the legal profession. Unfortunately, when these band-aids fail to do what a person had hoped because of their limited scope and inflexibility, the costs and the entanglement become greater, and the DIYer is no longer around to correct the situation.
Why would I not want a Trust as my estate planning tool is a question we need to ask ourselves. The wealthy have them, the legislators who write laws have them. Are their families more special than yours? Why would I choose to put my loved ones through the probate process when I can avoid it?
You can learn more about this important topic through this link. A three-hour workshop has been condensed to four videos totaling 17 minutes, covering the questions most folks have on the subject. Talking about illness, accidents, and death is not fun. Learning and taking action is not only the wise thing to do, it is a gift we give first to ourselves and then to those we love.