Estate Planning for the Ones You Love
Wills and trusts are the principal means by which people ensure their wishes are respected and their assets are distributed after they pass on. A will makes certain that beneficiaries and inheritances are spelled out in a legally enforceable document. A trust goes one step further. Setting up a trust allows heirs to avoid probate court and allows people to take additional steps in planning for the ones they love.
Proactive estate planning is easier when an attorney has the experience needed to understand what issues must be raised and what questions ought to be asked. DePrima Law has helped clients plan for their loved ones for over 18 years. Call our Buffalo office today at (716) 638-2633 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
How a Trust Helps People Plan for the Future
Trusts can be set up to serve different purposes. Some trusts distribute assets immediately upon the death of the person who established it (the grantor) and are then dissolved. Others are set up to last for a period of time and be paid out gradually or at certain milestone points in someone’s life. The latter allows grantors to consider different possibilities and weigh various concerns. Here are three of them.
Protect Those You Love From a Lawsuit
Beneficiaries have the legal right to money that is in a trust, but they do not own it. The trust itself is the owner of the assets within it. Now, let’s say one of the beneficiaries goes through a divorce. The assets in the trust are beyond the legal reach of the beneficiary’s soon-to-be ex-spouse in settlement talks.
The same rationale applies if the beneficiary were to be at fault in a car accident, embroiled in a business dispute or in any other litigation that exposed their assets. If the beneficiary received their inheritance in a lump sum, it would be vulnerable in a legal proceeding. A trust is a way to keep that inheritance safe.
The Spendthrift Trust
It’s not uncommon for parents to worry about their adult children’s spending habits. The sad cases of addiction have afflicted many families. A parent might be concerned about leaving a struggling adult child with money that could be used to fuel the addiction. At the same time, the parent loves their child and doesn’t want to cut them off. And it doesn’t take addiction for a parent to have concerns. Perhaps they just worry about their adult child’s spending habits or are generally concerned about the ability to handle a large sum of money.
A spendthrift trust is a possible answer. The third-party trustee appointed to manage the trust’s affairs is given broad discretion over whether, and how much, to distribute. This can become the source of disagreements after the parent’s passing, so it’s important that a well-crafted legal document be in place that protects the parent’s wishes.
This is also a good place to emphasize how important the role of trustee is. All trusts have a third party who oversee their affairs. Even the trust that dissolves immediately still has to have beneficiaries located and inheritances given. But a spendthrift trust and others like it give a lot of discretion. Being a trustee is a serious fiduciary duty that includes liability. The selection must be someone the parent has great confidence in, both personally and professionally.
A child is in college and a parent wants to make sure they graduate. Or a parent wants to be sure that at least some of an adult child’s inheritance is available to them when they get married. These are common milestones in a person’s life and the trust can be written to allow for disbursements to be made when they are reached.
Children with physical and mental disabilities will likely rely on their parents, at least to some extent, well into adulthood. The parents can’t be there forever. Furthermore, if they leave a lump-sum inheritance, it can jeopardize an adult child’s eligibility for government benefits. But a trust, properly crafted, in the hands of a professional trustee can distribute the inheritance in a way that allows a disabled adult child to live a dignified life and still get the benefits they deserve.
The number of ways parents worry about their children goes well beyond this, and so do the options in estate planning. The right plan for a person’s specific circumstance is determined through the consultation process with their lawyer.
At DePrima Law, we’re committed to making estate planning an ongoing process. It has to be more than just drafting a document and saying goodbye. We want to understand the real concerns of our clients and we want to know how these concerns evolve over the years, so we can adjust the estate plan if necessary. Planning for the ones you love is a lifetime journey and we want to be a part of it.
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