Why They're Not Just for the "Rich": The Basics on Revocable Living Trusts
When you hear the words, “trust fund,” do you picture stately mansions and party yachts? Contrary to popular opinion, a trust is not only for people who are financially well off. A trust - is one of the most useful estate planning tools for people with a wide range of incomes who want to accomplish a specific purpose with their money (such as ensuring that parenting values are passed on).
Simply put, a trust is just a vehicle used to transfer assets. According to a recent article at The Motley Fool, Trust Funds: They're Not Just for the Rich, and You Might Need One, trusts are especially useful for parents of minor children as well as those who wish to spare their beneficiaries the hassle of going to Court in the event of their incapacity or death.
And why would you want to keep your family out of court (known as avoiding probate)?
Perhaps you’d like to keep private the details of the assets you are leaving your heirs. Leaving assets via a will that must go through probate to go into effect makes your estate a matter of public record. A trust is a private document and distributes assets upon your death without the need for probate, which can tie up assets for a long period of time in court. Privacy can be quite valuable especially in situations where you are disinheriting someone or protecting a loved one with a special need from predators who prey on financially ignorant beneficiaries.
The probate process can take longer than is necessary and keep your family from getting access to your assets as quickly as they want or need them.
If you have minor children, a trust can avoid additional court proceedings if your children are still underage at your passing since they cannot inherit directly without some sort of formal conservatorship or guardianship proceeding. By creating a living trust, you will essentially be establishing an entity to hold the inheritance for your child in the manner in which you decide. You will also a trustee to manage those assets for your children per your instruction. As your children grow and you get to know their personalities and who they are becoming, you can tailor your trust to accommodate their development and ensure that each child is getting the most out of this flexible planning tool.
Even if your children are adults, a trust can help protect assets you leave for them from creditors, legal judgments, divorce or even their poor money management habits.
And if you don't have children, you can establish a trust for yourself in case you become incapacitated and cannot manage your own finances. If you don't have a spouse, and you don't have children, it's important to decide how you will be taken care of if anything were to happen to you. The trust assets would be managed by a successor trustee, which would avoid the need for a court-appointed financial guardian.
Trusts are also wonderful tools for those who are members of a blended family. If you are married and have children from a previous marriage or relationship, you can provide for your current spouse while ensuring your assets pass to your children from another marriage. A living trust can be set up so that those assets will pass to your children free of estate tax upon the death of your surviving spouse.
As you can see, there are many reasons to create a trust, and being "rich" isn’t necessarily one of them. Of course, everyone's definition of "rich" varies- and if you consider yourself rich when it comes to family and love, then a living trust is a great tool that will allow you to express that love and concern even after you're gone.
To learn more about how a trust might benefit you and your family, call our office and make an appointment for a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones.
Our law practice is here to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth (both financial and emotional) to the next generation. Call our office today at (305) 860-8338 to schedule. 03/16/2015