The term “Living Trust” has become a buzz word for people looking at estate planning information online or in other resources. Some of those sources of information simply may be a marketing tool to drum up business, without analyzing whether the expense involved in setting up a living trust is really justified for the individual.
Years ago, traveling seminars would roll into town, serving steak dinners, and selling estate planning packages with living trusts for everyone, at a cost of several thousand dollars. Many of those people had absolutely no reason to have a living trust to deal with their simple estates.
My advice is that if you are thinking about a living trust for your estate planning, set up an appointment with a qualified estate planning attorney to fully discuss why you may or may not need one.
Below are some of the reasons a living trust might be a good tool for your estate planning:
1. You own property in different states or many counties Texas.
If you own real property or oil or gas interests in other states, a living trust is a very good tool to make it easier to transfer those interests on your death.
Without having title to real estate and oil and gas interests in other states held in the living trust, you might be compelled to probate a will in all the different states in which such assets exist.
States other than Texas often have more complicated and expensive probate procedures. It may save your estate substantial money to place these assets in a living trust.
2. You need special assistance in managing your assets.
The living trust can name co-trustees or successor trustees to yourself, who can assist you in the management of your assets during your lifetime. This is particularly important if you became incompetent. You should designate a knowledgeable person or firm to aid you in handling the assets of the trust.
3. You want to provide special conditions on receipt of assets your prefer to remain private.
Terms of a will which place conditions on the receipt of the inheritance would have to be placed in the public record in the probate proceeding. Many people have concerns that the gift to a beneficiary could be squandered if they do not place conditions on receipt of the gift.
They may want to require that the beneficiary is drug free, gainfully employed, that the beneficiary’s spouse does not have control of the gift, or if money is to be used for college education, that a certain number of hours of classes and a certain grade point be maintained. They may want those conditions and issues to remain private. A living trust is the way to accomplish this.
4. You have a beneficiary with special needs.
If one of your beneficiaries has special needs and is receiving government assistance, you can set up what is called a “special needs trust”. This trust must meet specific statutory requirements, but can provide supplemental assistance, while still preserving the beneficiary’s receipt of the government benefits.
HOW TO DECIDE IF A TRUST IS RIGHT FOR YOU:
- Seek out an estate planning attorney with knowledge of Texas law.
- Prepare a full summary of your assets to take to the attorney when you meet.
- Advise the attorney of any special situations in your family that might benefit from having a trust.
- Avoid using standard forms, kits, or computer software that is one-size-fits-all.
*The free consultation does not cover actual review of documents or giving legal advice on a specific situation.
When researching lawyers, it’s critical you choose one you can trust. Download our FREE white paper, 5 Tips For Finding A Lawyer You Can Trust.