A good estate plan will avoid problems for you and your family. It will avoid unnecessary court involvement. It will reduce costs, headaches and fees if and when you become disabled or pass.
If you leave assets “in trust” then they can remain protected from most lawsuits and be guaranteed to stay in your blood family. Modern estate plans often use revocable trusts as a substitute for the will.
Assets titled in the trust do not go through probate. This avoids many costs and preserves your privacy.
For example, let us look at a typical case of a second marriage. Let’s say Jack and Jill are a married couple, and they do not have a prenuptial agreement. They also each have a child from a prior marriage.
Jack has a son named Jack Jr. Jill has a daughter named Evelyn. They agree that all their assets are separate and will go to their child, but they want to provide the survivor with the ability to live in the house during their life and to make sure that their half then goes to their child.
Using a trust (one for each of them) along with an agreement not to alter the plan is the best way to accomplish the above.
To accomplish this, Jack’s trust and Jill’s trust will each direct their successor trustee to give all property other than their house and their personal belongings to their spouse. Jack’s trust will say his interest in the house stays in trust for Jill’s benefit, and on her death, the net proceeds will be distributed 50 percent to Jack Jr. and 50 percent to Evelyn.
The trust can also provide provisions for downsizing. It can leave Jack Jr.’s share in a trust so he won’t lose it if he gets sued.
Every case is unique, but this is the kind of thing people need to do if they want to make sure their planning goals and wishes are fulfilled.
Fortunately, with a little bit of advice and counsel, it is not difficult to protect what’s yours.
Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate planning and elder law attorney. www.mwinnesq.com