6 Reasons to Establish a Trust as Part of Your Estate Plan

6 Reasons to Establish a Trust as Part of Your Estate Plan

Estate planning should be considered one of the most essential parts of your financial plan. Setting up an estate plan simplifies the transition of your assets to the people you wish them to go to, and in the way you want them to be disbursed. 

There are several aspects of an estate plan, though, and this can make the whole idea of estate planning appear harder than it is.  An estate planning attorney can help you with this.  But, also  knowing the aspects of why you should establish a trust as part of an excellent estate plan will also help.

When you establish your estate plan, you’ll want to work with an estate planning attorney to set up several key components such as a Last Will & Testament, a Guardianship Plan, the appropriate Powers of Attorney including both financial and healthcare, and a Trust.  

Trusts play a pivotal role in planning for the future of your estate and how it will be taken care of when you pass or become unable to manage it. We’ll cover the different types of trusts in another article. But first, let’s discuss 6 important reasons why you should establish a trust as a key element of your estate plan.  


 

A Trust Helps You To Avoid Probate

Probate is a legal court process that is responsible for distributing your assets or property when you pass.  Probate is a court process that examines your Last Will and Testament, and if all is in order, carries out the desires of that Will.  However, as a court processes, probate can be a time sink, costly, stressful and tiring. To avoid going through the process of probate, you can establish a Trust.  A trust enables you to pass-on selected assets, or your entire estate to your desired beneficiaries without any delay, hassle or additional attorney charges.

 

Moreover, avoiding probate can help you save money on probate fees which can be as much as 5% of your entire estate!

 

A Trust Keeps Your Estate Information Private

Establishment of a Trust not only avoids probate, it also offers the privacy that a Last Will and Testament cannot.  A Will is a legal document that is publicly presented during probate.  And as we covered in the previous section, Probate is a legal proceeding. This means that the details and execution of a Will are dealt with publicly, exposing all assets of the deceased one to the general public. This can be undesirable for a number of reasons.

A Trust, on the other hand, is maintained between you, your trustee and your beneficiary. The assets passed on to the beneficiaries are not typically subject to public proceedings and disclosure.  And you might imagine this has a number of advantages regarding security issues and the avoidance of potential family disputes.

 

Save Money by Avoiding Estate Taxes

Estate taxes are a huge concern for estate planning.  The best scenario is transferring your estate and wealth to your beneficiaries without having to give half of it to Uncle Sam, who didn’t earn it for you in the first place.

One way to prevent this from happening and assuring that your estate and assets be distributed solely amongst the people you desire is that you establish an ‘Irrevocable trust.’ There are certainly circumstances that might lead you to desire an irrevocable trust, but as the name (irrevocable) suggests there are also risks involved.  You should have a good discussion with your estate planning attorney about the benefits and risks involved with an irrevocable trust.

The takeaway from this point, however, is that you can potentially avoid very significant taxes by implementing good estate planning.

 

A Trust Can Be Updatable 

A Will is a final document.  You can “amend” it, but only in a manner similar to adding a “P.S” to a letter.  If you consider what it means when you add a “PS” in a letter – you’re not changing the content of the letter.  In a will, this is the function of a codicil.  It’s a new thought, that is added as to the Will, but doesn’t change the content of the original document.

If drafted well, a codicil might accomplish the desired amendment to your Will.  However, you won’t know because you’ll have passed by the time the Will is interpreted.  And part of the interpretation of the Will will consist of trying to figure out what is meant by the codicil.  Let’s hope there is no conflicting information between the original document and the codicil.  To avoid codicil, many will draft an entirely new Will, but that can feel like overkill for a minor update.

In contrast to the barriers of updating a Will, you can (relatively) easily update a ‘Revocable Trust.’ Should the need arise to change or update your Trust, it can be done by preparing and signing a simple trust amendment.

 

You Can Establish a Trust That Fits Your Needs

One of the most compelling reasons to establish a Trust is because there are so many ways a Trust can be customized for your specific estate planning.  Some examples of types of Trust include Special Needs Trust for individuals who are unable to manage their financial dealings because of certain challenges, Charitable Remainder Trust for donating a calculated amount to any or a desired charity organization, and/or Generation Skipping Trust for the well-being of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

You get the idea…you have a lot of options for forming a trust to meet your desires, and potentially avoid the expense and rigamarole of a Will.

 

A Trust Can Go Into Effect While You’re Still Alive

A Will gives power to its beneficiary after you have passed away, whereas a Trust allows the beneficiary, if you set it up to do so, to access assets while you’re still alive.  This can be in various ways.  One way this can be set up is through distributed, calculated amounts periodically.  Predetermined by you, the Trust maker. Kind of like an allowance for your beneficiaries.

 

What You Can Do Today!

Many people are unaware of the benefits a Trust has to offer, that is probably the reason why only 20% of Americans establish a Trust.  But, If you have an idea of how you want your wealth and estate to transfer to your cared ones, it makes a lot of sense to connect with a great estate planning attorney.

 

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How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

Who Would Raise Your Children If Something Happened to You?

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Randi L. Johnson, Lilac City Law, Estate Planning, Social Security Disability, VA Disability

By Randi L. Johnson

How Do I Appoint a Guardian for My Child If I Die?

 

Honestly, no one wants to think about this question. It’s a tacit reminder that we are indeed mortal and, in some cases, we may leave this world before we are ready.  What are our plans if this were to happen?  Putting your assets in a trust, or last desires into a Will – helps to make sure your financial holdings are passed on to whomever you want them to go.  However, if you don’t create a care plan, or declare a guardian for your children the courts may decide who cares for your children if you die.

Are you comfortable with a stranger making this decision?

 

A Stranger Might Raise Your Children

“My greatest fear, someone I don’t know raising my child… What if something happens to me, who is going to take care of my child?”

This sentiment is a visceral fear that most parents have at some point.  And for a good reason; when we raise our children, we are trying to put the best of ourselves into them.  That means our world view, and our lessons learned, even our religion or philosophy for life.  In short, we are trying to instill our values and love.  But not everyone has those same values, do they?

Before we get into how to go about setting up a Guardianship Plan, this is something to consider…Who should you appoint as a guardian for your children in the event of untimely death?

 

Who Should Raise Your Children if You Die?

Establishing the Guardianship Plan (Kids Protection Plan) is the last step in the process of protecting your kiddos.  Before you even get that far, you should first be thinking very seriously about who can provide a lifestyle for your family that you’d be ok with raising your family. 

Often this is a sibling, parent, or maybe even an adult child.  However, it’s not uncommon to consider someone who isn’t directly related. Your internal family dynamics aren’t on trial; it’s a very personal consideration and decision you are making in the best interest of your family. Don’t unduly narrow the scope of consideration; this is a choice you are preparing for everyone’s best interest.

Here are some basic requirements and some other things to think about:

 

Your children’s guardian must be:

  • At least 18 (in most cases)
  • Able to fulfill their duties as a guardian
  • Able to financially provide for your children

 

Your children’s guardian should be:

  • Of similar outlook to you and your partner
  • Knowledgeable of your goals as a family and parent(s)
  • Capable of providing emotional support for your children
  • Stable (family wise, financially, etc.)
  • Someone that you’re comfortable having around your children.
  • Aware that they are being asked to be appointed as a guardian

 

 

How to Appoint a Guardian For Your Children

If you know who you want to take care of your children, the process for establishing a guardian involves declaring your desires in such a way that it will stand up to scrutiny by a judge if necessary. That’s a wordy way to say that just because you have a wish for a guardian, it doesn’t mean your preferences cannot, or will not, get challenged.  This potential hurdle is why so much consideration should go into your decision of who to appoint as a guardian.

A verbal agreement, for instance, is quickly challenged and will not instruct a judge what your wishes are. They may consider it, but without proof, your children will be relying on a judge’s discretion.  In this case, a judge well-meaning meaning but does not know you and will only know you through what information you leave behind if any. Frankly, there are too many unknowns here for me or most moms to feel comfortable knowing things will, “turn out ok!”

Better than a verbal agreement, a quickly drafted written agreement provides at least some potential protection.  In this sense, an informal written agreement certainly is better than a verbal agreement, but it can still be easily challenged.  When looking for how to prepare documents to stand up to future challenges, we always advise putting them together in such a way that it answers all the questions a judge would have about your wishes. That’s why when we prepare guardianship plans, we put all these wishes, desires, values, and more into a well prepared, and notarized, Last Will and Testament.

Placing your guardianship plan in your Last Will means a couple of things.  First, because you probably had an attorney’s input on the structuring of the guardianship plan, it will be structured to be clear enough to avoid being challenged.  Second, it automatically becomes part of the probate process, for which your family will likely have an attorney helping them through.  If the plan is part of your Will, the attorney will be working to make sure your wishes are carried out according to what you have drafted.

 

Alternatives to Placing Your Guardianship Plan in a Will or Estate Plan?

It is possible to create a Guardianship Plan and not have it be part of your Will. Here’s a free and easy way for you to do it right now.<- This will get you set up with the basics of a Kids Protection (and Guardianship) Plan. You’ll still want to consider having an attorney involved in this process, even if you can use that link to start laying out your desires without one.  The benefits, as described before, are that with an attorney’s assistance you’ll be creating a plan that will stand up to the scrutiny the law requires a judge to pay to your desires and the well-being of your children.

 

What Happens to My Family If I Die?

Strictly speaking, death isn’t the only way a Guardianship Plan might become necessary.  A Guardianship Plan might be essential if you (and your partner) become incapacitated in some manner too. This potentiality in and of itself describes why you might want to make this more of a protection plan than something you place in your Will and forget.  If you haven’t died, but need to appoint a guardian, you likely still want the plan to support your desires!

Back to the point, what happens if you die?  The processes are determined by the state you live within, but generally speaking, a guardian will be required to establish the ability to provide for your children. This procedure occurs in a court setting. Here’s a great list of requirements and resources for more information, by state.  Of course, if you have questions about this, you can always respond in the comments below too, or send us a question/messagehere.

 

Have you Been Through this Process as a Child or as a Guardian?

We’d love to put together a list of tips or lessons learned from the perspective of a child having gone through this, or from the perspective of a guardian having adopted the children of deceased parents.  Please feel free to reach out to us so we can help parents better understand how this process works.  You can contact us hereor connect with us on Facebook.

 

I’m Ready to Protect My Family if I Die, What Do I Need to Do?

Reach out to us via the contact form below, or simply call our office. Our team will reach out to you and send you all the information you need.  We are here to help you protect your family.  It’s our mission and our passion to support you and your family. 

 

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Initial meeting with David Morris went well. He treated me with respect and understanding. I felt that I was listened to. Even accommodated me when I arrived 1 hour early. Highly recommended.
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Lilac City Law is an incredible firm! I had the pleasure of working with the amazing team at Lilac City Law for nearly 2 years. Their team is absolutely remarkable! They are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and overall compassionate when it comes to working with their clients. I sought their assistance nearly 2 years ago and have continued to work with them. I had a great deal of interaction with more than just one member of the Lilac City Law team and therefore can attest to the fact that this group of individuals is absolutely unparalleled. Attorney, Randi Johnson, is an exceptionally skilled lawyer as well as an overall remarkable woman! Her support staff is incredible as well, including Cassandra, Pam, Marissa, David, etc. with all of them by your side you have been blessed and are going to receive the best results possible. I would absolutely recommend seeking assistance from this law firm, as they have the ability to change lives; they definitely did mine. Thank you all so, so much!
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17:03 22 May 19
I had a great experience with Randi and her team this past year when we worked with them to create our first-ever wills and trust. Planning for your untimely death and discussing personal finances aren't always fun topics, but we were appreciative of Randi's approach to these potentially uncomfortable conversations and especially liked the recorded legacy interview she conducted with us. Total 5-star experience!
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20:39 30 Jan 19
My husband and I worked with Randi and her team to complete our last will and testament, advanced directive, and health care proxy in the summer of 2018. Randi, and her team, as well as David Morris, were exceptionally kind, very professional, and thorough. We had several meetings to go through the important stuff - the financial info, heirlooms, and disposition of my husband's motorcycle. At each meeting, Randi and her team listened to our intentions and concerns. At the signing ceremony, we got a huge binder with our info and a data stick for safekeeping. Included in our will is a review which will take place every other year. We also got a document which states who can take our children to give our babysitter in case something bad happens to us when we were out. I'm very satisfied with Lilac City Law, and their work. I would recommend them without qualification to anyone.
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23:52 29 Jan 19
Parents are so intentional about so many aspects of their children's lives. Few will forgo putting together a will. But, what if you don't die? What if you are just incapacitated? Are you prepared for the unexpected? Are you leaving your children at risk? If someone else does raise them, do you know that they will be raised according to your wishes? Have you even thought through what your wishes are? All these questions and more will be covered in the process of completing a Family Protection Plan with Randi Johnson at Lilac City Law. Having our Family Protection Plan in place gives me an incredible sense of comfort and peace of mind. I highly recommend Randi and the staff at Lilac City Law. Hopefully you never need her services, but isn't it better to be prepared than to leave things to chance?
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Lilac City Law did an amazing job with my estate plan, which was something I had 'thought' about doing for a long time, but avoided... Fortunately, Randi and her team made the process very easy and approachable. I now feel relief knowing everything is in order for my two daughters in the (hopefully unlikely!) event something were to happen to me. Thank you Lilac City Law for helping me sleep better at night! 🙂
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This has been an awesome experience from beginning to end. Randi and her team were super helpful in helping us wrestle through all the aspects of our estate plan. Randi’s knowledge of estate and wills were very obvious from the beginning and we are thankful for her and her staffs expertise. Thank you so much!
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Kevin Bunce
17:22 12 Dec 18

Wills & Living Trusts – Which is Better?

An Estate Plan includes A Will and Living Trust

 


It’s not a stretch to say that given an chance, most people won’t be able to describe the difference between a Will and a Trust.  Both are potentially beneficial planning devices and serve distinctly helpful purposes for an estate.  And both Wills and Trusts are common approaches to end of life planning.  So what is the difference?  Which is better for you when thinking about protecting your family?


 

Wills, Protection After Death

A Will serves as a public document that declares, in an official manner, how your estate will be passed on to whomever you desire.  An executor or personal representative is usually designated as someone to manage the process of probate, which can be cumbersome and often ends up involving attorneys for assistance.

 

Trust, Protection Before Death

A Trust, or Living Trust, as opposed to a Will, provides for a transfer of your estate prior to your death (into the trust).  A very important benefit of this process is that you can utilize a trust to avoid probate.  You can also utilize a trust to pass property to children although the property must be managed by a trustee until they reach the age of 18.  Additionally a trust, unlike a Will, does not become a public document and many people like the privacy it affords.

One of the biggest benefits of a Living Trust is that, well managed, it is updated throughout your life.  Because of this, it can be a godsend to family and friends in the case of your incapacitation. Whereas without a trust, the concerned family might have to go through a public court process to gain the authority to manage your finances and affairs, if you become physically or mentally unable to – with a trust, this process is kept private and a pre-determined protocol for taking charge of the trust is carried out.  If a living trust is skillfully set up, you and/or your estate should not be in limbo as a result of inability by you or your spouse to manage it properly when it would otherwise not be possible.

 

Does a Trust Help Me Avoid Probate?

Yes, we covered this a little bit here, and more in-depth in our article, The Basics of Probate.  If your loved ones who are left behind cannot afford a lengthy and drawn out procedure after your passing, then you may want to avoid probate at all costs.

A living trust is your best option in this regard as it does not pass through probate whereas a will does.

 

Probate: Living Trust vs Will

Probate is a court process that is put in place to wrap up a deceased person’s affairs once their debts are settled.  It can take time, it can be contentious, and it certainly can feel unnecessary for many estates.

As a property that passes through a Trust it does not have to go through probate, it may be allocated to beneficiaries without any interference by a court (or family) or any attorney’s fees charged.

 

Summary of the Key Differences Between a Trust and a Will

A Will is also referred to as your Last Will & Testament.  It is where you get to specify your last wishes for your estate and appoint someone to carry them out.  Your assets will be transferred to your beneficiaries after your death and after probate. You can name your guardians for minor children.

Your Living Trust, also termed as “Inter Vivos” trust, is where you specify your wishes in the case that you are incapacitated.  A successor trustee is appointed to carry out the trust on your behalf.  Your assets are to be transferred to the trust while you’re alive so it can be passed onto your beneficiaries when you’re gone. You will also name a guardian to take care of minor children. With a living trust, you can avoid probate.

 

 

 

Can it be a Both-And Situation?

You bet!  If you want to know more about how a Trust and a Will might work together to be an even more comprehensive approach to planning your estate, we will help you make sense of it all.  Please contact us and we’ll schedule a time to discuss your estate-planning options.

 

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5 Reasons to Create a Will Today 

Lilac City Law will help you establish your Will

 


One of the best things you can do to protect those you love and the assets you will leave behind in the event you pass away is to create a will today. Most people tend to avoid discussing what will happen to their wealth and estate should the worst occur, and we agree, it’s not exactly a cheery subject. However, if you don’t take the steps now to create a Will while you’re still alive, then the Government will make those important decisions for you… now that’s a scary thought! 

 

When you create a will, you are effectively spelling out exactly how you would like your wealth and estate to be handled after you pass away. There are tons of reasons why creating a will is so important, but here are 5 of them that will hopefully motivate you to start a meaningful discussion on family planning with your local Spokane law offices today.

 

Reason #1: Take care of Your Children

Children, especially very young children, can be most vulnerable to uncertainty in the event that they suddenly become orphans. A Will grants you the power to appoint a person you trust wholeheartedly as the guardian for your children when you’re gone. Otherwise, the State will decide who gets to take care of your little ones.

Of course, raising children isn’t exactly cheap these days. Fortunately, you can also set up a trust fund which is managed by Trustees whom you trust and choose, to provide financial support.

 

Reason #2: Ensure Proper Distribution of Your Wealth 

We’ve all heard of countless horror stories of family and even non-family members fighting over who gets what when someone dies. When you create a Will, however, you can specify who receives what and how much. In addition, you can also include special provisions for non-family members such as close friends or mentors.

 

Reason #3: Protect your Family Business

According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, less than a third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership. Of those that do survive, half of them won’t make it from second to third generation ownership. A Will lets you ensure that your company is properly passed down to your heirs or co-owners.

 

Reason #4: Shorten up the Probate Process

Regardless of whether you have a legal Will on file or not, your estate will need to go through a probate process. These processes are necessary to administer how your estate will be distributed, but they are often complicated and time-consuming and can be a burden for loved ones to have to deal with on top of your passing away. With a will, however, the process can be cut shorter and helps reduce the unnecessary hassle.

 

Reason #5: A Will can help Reduce Estate Taxes

A will can help you reduce your estate taxes so you can ensure that your beneficiaries get as much value as possible. Once your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries, the value of your estate is also reduced therefore lowering your estate tax bill.

 

Get in touch with Lilac City Law and start your family planning today.

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Is a Military Will Enough Protection for my Family?   

Is your existing family protection plan enough to still protect your family?

 


One of the benefits of serving in the United States Military is that you have access to free legal help for things like: Powers of Attorney, Wills & Living Wills, Family care & Protection Plan, Survivor benefits, Estate taxes, Probate.

 However, there are some very important limitations to these supports that you should be aware of if you’re still serving and your family, wealth, or assets have grown.  Or, if you’ve discharged from military service.  


 

Limitations to Military Wills & Other Legal Benefits 

These great military benefits are best for less complicated situations.  Consider how you met with your military lawyer and setup your will, trust, or family care plan.  How many times did you meet with them?  Did they get to know your family’s names?  Did they personalize documents for you and make sure they would stand up to scrutiny in different jurisdictions?  If you’re like most service members, the answer to one or all of these questions is no.

 

“Typical” Situations

The typical situation is that service members push through legal en-masse either in preparation for deployment or event.  Or they go to legal as yet another step in a check-in or check-out process.  The pace that military lawyers are forced to work at times means that customization of family care plans, kids protection plans, estate plans, and others is very difficult.  Because of this many service members receive basic templates that offer very little customization for their unique family situation.   Not all service members have the same situations though, and that’s the issue we’re getting at.

 

The Most Common Objection

“I already had mine setup while in the military.”  This is the most common response we hear when talking about wills, trusts, kids protection plans, and similar support with service members and Veterans.  We wrote the article, Why you Need to Update your Estate Plan after these Life Events, to show why and how seven common life events change the effectiveness of your current family legal plans.

Whether we’re talking about a plan setup in the military or one created a couple of years ago when your life may have been less complex, if you haven’t updated it, it may not even apply to your life and assets anymore.

 

Three Things You Can Do Today

  1. If you put together any of these plans in the past and your life has changed in any of these ways, we want to help.  You can find out more about how we help families like yours to establish and update their plans here.
  2. You can create a free, fast, and easy Kids Protection Plan.  If you decide later to create a more in-depth plan we can also help you with that.
  3. Follow us on Facebook.  We share new and important information on family planning all the time.

 

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The Value of Proper Protection Planning

If you Google “Kids Protection Plans” you will see the work we are putting into providing services, education, & support to our community.  LCL is doing this because we are striving to be a “different kind of law firm.”  Being different means building a relationship with you and using that relationship to personalize a plan for you and your family.  This is our protection planning process, it is fundamental to our mission of providing the best Personal Family Law services possible.  

The Usual Talk

Establishing an effective planning process with your family lawyer is very important.  Most family lawyers will say, “Without proper planning…[fill in the blank].”  But they don’t walk you through what that means or how you will know if you’ve actually set up a proper plan.  They focus on what happens without the plan and leave it to you to fill in the blank that they can do it for you.  They are selling fear, then selling themselves as the solution.

The fear is that without the plan, your children could be placed in CPS.  A judge can decide who will raise your kids.  A portion of your assets could be lost to probate.  Your children’s financial inheritance can be poached by morally questionable “wealth planners” when they turn 18.  In fact, the harder we think, the more we can bring to the table as potential reasons for you to be concerned.  There are more things to be afraid of than are even reasonable to discuss.

Having a Proper Plan

So what does it mean having a proper plan? How is reframing the discussion about establishing a plan better than discussing the fears about not having one?  Well, first, having a plan effectively mitigates the scary scenarios above.  A proper plan also has other tangible and intangible benefits.

A proper plan takes a weight off your shoulders.  It gives you confidence and removes stress from your already busy plate.  It is also good for your family.  A plan demonstrates to them in a direct way that you are planning for the worst case.  And for your growing family, it demonstrates the value of looking into the future and planning contingencies for the potential worst cases.

It has to Work for You

In addition to how it makes you feel, a proper plan is also one that works.  The plan will work in the situations that you foresee, and maybe the ones that you don’t.  It will reflect the needs of your family today, as well as in the future.  It will be a custom plan.  And it will be an up to date plan.  This is where LCL really makes a difference.  We build custom Kids and Family wealth plans based on your needs.  And we do it based on getting to know you and your family today and in whatever tomorrow brings.

Find out More: Protection Planning

 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop

Family Wealth and Kids Protection Plans 

 

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