So do you need a trust? In my last column, I stated that a trust can be used to protect your estate. A trust can do this by allowing you to maintain control, even after your passing, to decide who benefits from your estate and when.
What are the risks from which you need protection? Typically, there are too many uncertainties in life for you to predict the specific challenges you and your family will face. However, if you are aware of the risks proper estate planning can help address, you can decide to what extent those risks may apply, and to what extent your own estate plan should account for them.
The following are what I consider to be the most common risks, especially to seniors.
- You – In a past column, I explained how you can undermine your estate plan by inadvertently giving up control. So long as you are mentally competent, a trust is not likely the best solution for this risk. However, this can change quickly should you become incompetent from a stroke, a fall, dementia or other factors.
- Your family - Yes, I consider your family to be a significant risk to your estate, even if they don’t mean to be. In future columns, I will explain how your family can actually jeopardize your ability to pass on the estate as you desire.
- Scams – Especially for seniors who have lost a spouse, this is an extremely serious risk. The bad guys are aware who is the most vulnerable and when.
- Lawsuits – Given our lawsuit happy society, this risk should not be ignored.
- Chronic illness/long term care – Medicare and the typical health insurance policy do not cover these costs. Are you prepared if you or your spouse need long term care?
In many cases, a carefully drafted trust can help you maintain necessary control of your estate. In other cases, a different strategy may be more beneficial. It is important that you have the opportunity to learn what strategies are available, and decide for yourself what steps to take.
© 2015 Steven J Wright