Trusts: The Swiss Army Knife of Estate Planning

Trusts serve many different purposes in estate planning. They all have the intent to protect the assets placed within the trust. The type of trust determines what the protection is, and from whom it is protected, says the article “Trusts are powerful tools which can come in many forms,” from The News Enterprise. To understand how trusts protect, start with the roles involved in a trust.

The person who creates the trust is called a “grantor”, “trustmaker” or “settlor.” The individuals or organizations receiving the benefit of the property or assets in the trust are the “beneficiaries.” There are two basic types of beneficiaries: present interest beneficiaries and “future interest” beneficiaries. The beneficiary, by the way, can be the same person as the grantor, for their lifetime, or it can be other people or entities.

The person who is responsible for the property within the trust is the “trustee.” This person is responsible for caring for the assets in the trust and following the instructions of the trust. The trustee can be the same person as the grantor, as long as a successor is in place when the grantor/initial trustee dies or becomes incapacitated. However, a grantor cannot gain asset protection through a trust, where the grantor controls the trust and is the principal recipient of the trust.

One way to establish asset protection during the lifetime of the grantor is with an irrevocable trust. Someone other than the grantor must be the trustee, and the grantor should not have any control over the trust. The less power a grantor retains, the greater the asset protection.

One additional example is if a grantor seeks lifetime asset protection but also wishes to retain the right to income from the trust property and provide a protected home for an adult child upon the grantor’s death. Very specific provisions within the trust document can be drafted to accomplish this particular task.

There are many other options that can be created to accomplish the specific goals of the grantor.

Some trusts are used to protect assets from taxes, while others ensure that an individual with special needs will be able to continue to receive needs-tested government benefits and still have access to funds for costs not covered by government benefits.

An estate planning attorney will have a thorough understanding of the many different types of trusts and which one would best suit each individual situation and goal.

If you would like to discuss the various trust options that are available please contact me to set up a consultation. This can be done with a socially distanced in person meeting, or virtually through Zoom, if that is more comfortable for you.

Reference: The News Enterprise (July 25, 2020) “Trusts are powerful tools which can come in many forms”

 

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Why Can’t Doctors Recognize Robin Williams’ Form of Dementia?

Considerable’s recent article entitled “The second most common type of dementia often goes unrecognized” reports that in one study, nearly 70% of people diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, the type Robin Williams suffered from, visited three consultants before receiving the diagnosis. For 33% of people with the disease, getting the correct diagnosis took over two years.

The word “dementia” describes a condition affecting a person’s memory and thinking that is a decline from how they used to function. It is severe enough to affect their daily life. Alzheimer’s disease dementia and Lewy body dementia are the two most common types. Lewy body dementia derives its name from the abnormal protein clumps that are seen on autopsies of the brains of people with Lewy body dementia.

A diagnosis of Lewy body dementia comprises two different conditions: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. With Lewy body dementia, an individual develops memory and thinking problems before or at the same time as he or she develops movement problems that mirror Parkinson’s disease. In Parkinson’s disease dementia, one who has experienced Parkinson’s disease movement problems for years then also develops trouble with memory and thinking.

The two conditions have many common features. With the memory and thinking problems and movement problems, patients with these conditions can have fluctuations in their alertness and concentration, hallucinations and paranoia, acting out dreams during sleep (known as “REM sleep behavior disorder”), low blood pressure with standing, daytime sleepiness and depression and other symptoms.

The correct diagnosis is vital for patients and families. The diagnosis of Lewy body dementia is frequently missed, because of lack of awareness by physicians, patients, and their families. Research also reveals that the first diagnosis is commonly incorrect. Roughly 26% of people later diagnosed with Lewy body dementia were first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 24% were given a psychiatric diagnosis like depression.

With the correct diagnosis, patients and families can seek out resources, such as the Lewy Body Dementia Association, an organization dedicated to helping people living with this disease. This group provides education on Lewy body dementia, helps patients and families know what to expect, connects patients and families to support and resources and helps them find research opportunities.

Reference: Considerable (Aug. 14, 2020) “The second most common type of dementia often goes unrecognized”

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What Happens If I Don’t Fund My Trust?

Trust funding is a crucial step in estate planning that many people forget to do.

However, if it’s done properly, funding will avoid probate, provide for you in the event of your incapacity and save on estate taxes.

Forbes’s recent article entitled “Don’t Overlook Your Trust Funding” looks at some of the benefits of trusts.

Avoiding probate and problems with your estate. If you’ve created a revocable trust, you have control over the trust and can modify it during your lifetime. You are also able to fund it, while you are alive. You can fund the trust now or on your death. If you don’t transfer assets to the trust during your lifetime, then your last will must be probated, and an executor of your estate should be appointed. The executor will then have the authority to transfer the assets to your trust. This may take time and will involve court. You can avoid this by transferring assets to your trust now, saving your family time and aggravation after your death.

Protecting you and your family in the event that you become incapacitated. Funding the trust now will let the successor trustee manage the assets for you and your family, if your become incapacitated. If a successor trustee doesn’t have access to the assets to manage on your behalf, a conservator may need to be appointed by the court to oversee your assets, which can be expensive and time consuming.

Taking advantage of estate tax savings. If you’re married, you may have created a trust that contains terms for estate tax savings. This will often delay estate taxes until the death of the second spouse, by providing income to the surviving spouse and access to principal during his or her lifetime while the ultimate beneficiaries are your children. Depending where you live, the trust can also reduce state estate taxes. You must fund your trust to make certain that these estate tax provisions work properly.

Remember that any asset transfer will need to be consistent with your estate plan. Your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies should be examined to determine if the beneficiary can be updated to the trust.

You may also want to move tangible items to the trust, as well as any closely held business interests, such as stock in a family business or an interest in a limited liability company (LLC). Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about the assets to transfer to your trust.

Fund your trust now to maximize your updated estate planning documents.

My office is open to help you with any funding issues or just to consult about setting up an estate plan. This can be done in person, with social distancing in the office, or virtually through Zoom.  Please contact me with any questions.

Reference: Forbes (July 13, 2020) “Don’t Overlook Your Trust Funding”

 

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