For those who attend my presentations, I offer a free, no obligation estate planning audit. There are two reasons for the audit. First, we discuss what is accomplished with their current estate plan. Second, we discuss whether that plan addresses the issues of concern to them.
Often these individuals have a trust (not always created by an attorney), but have no idea why. Perhaps they were told a trust would help them avoid going through “probate”, but they aren’t sure what they are avoiding.
If I am asked to review their trust, there are times I cannot tell why they have a trust. Indeed, sometimes the trust appears to be nothing more than a form with names plugged in.
This is very disappointing because it creates the unfortunate perception that trusts are not really useful and, even worse, may be a way to take advantage of people. However, if a trust is properly drafted, and addresses a legitimate need, it is a very powerful vehicle. More on that in future columns.
A trust can be compared to a motor vehicle. There are many models and, depending on the need, different models can accomplish different things. A driver should not use a sports car to reach remote places. It is the wrong vehicle for that purpose. And there is no vehicle that can do everything for everyone. The same is true for trusts. There is no form (on the internet or anywhere else) that can meet everyone’s needs. However, a trust drafted to address specific needs can be incredibly effective.
If you are considering a trust, it is entirely fair to ask if the drafter is simply using a form. You are also entitled to know exactly what the trust is accomplishing and why it is necessary. Ask these questions. If you are not satisfied with the answers, a trust may not be the right vehicle for you; or you should find someone who can draft the trust that addresses what matters to you.
© 2016 Steven J Wright