New Perspectives on Revocable Living Trusts
February 12th, 2017
One of the most useful and flexible wealth management tools is the revocable living trust. Traditionally, we like to point to three basic benefits that these trusts offer.
1) Professional asset management
After studying your goals and circumstances, our asset-management specialists will map out a diversified investment program appropriate to your requirements. Our objective is not only to add to your financial security, but also to give you more opportunity to enjoy it.
2) Uninterrupted family financial protection
A living trust agreement can instruct us to perform a wide variety of special tasks when the need arises. With proper planning, living trusts can do much to avoid the financial management problems that arise during a prolonged period of incapacity—problems that might otherwise have to be dealt with by a court-appointed conservator.
3) Probate avoidance
Assets placed in a living trust are said to avoid probate because these assets are removed from your “probate estate”—the estate controlled by your will. Trust assets are distributed to beneficiaries, or held in continuing trust, as you direct in the trust agreement. Thus, using a living trust as the core of an estate plan usually leads to reduced settlement costs. More importantly, delays are avoided.
But living trusts can do more. Noted estate planner Martin Shenkman explored new perspectives on trust benefits in an article in a professional journal last year [“How to Avoid Complicated Trust Issues,” Bank Investment Consultant]. Among the emerging benefits he pointed out:
- Minimizing identity theft
The problem of identity theft has exploded in recent years. A funded revocable trust may have its own tax ID number, rather than using the settlor’s own Social Security number. In the event that the settlor’s Social Security Number is compromised, the trust assets still will be protected.
- Protecting aging retirees
More and more retirements are lasting longer than 20 years, and more and more elderly are developing some level of cognitive impairment. A living trust can provide for successor trustees as the beneficiary’s abilities decline. Checks and balances can be built into the plan, in the form of cotrustees or trust protectors. A care manager plan also might be included, to provide annual or quarterly assessments of how the beneficiary is doing.
- Serving disabled loved ones
A revocable trust may contain special-needs language to provide for an ill relative or incapacitated adult child. The trust also may provide for successor trustees should the caregiver become incapacitated.
- Asset protection in divorce
If gifted or inherited assets are segregated into a trust, they won’t be commingled with other marital assets. As such, those assets won’t be vulnerable in a subsequent divorce proceeding.
Notwithstanding the decline in estate planning attributable to the increase in the federal exemption from estate taxes, attorney Shenkman predicted that the traditional and emerging benefits associated with revocable living trusts will make them an essential part of late-stage life planning for years to come.
To get started
To set up a living trust with us, you give us your instructions in a trust agreement, prepared by your attorney, and transfer the stocks, bonds, investable cash or other assets that you wish to place in your trust. Because the trust agreement is revocable, you can cancel the arrangement if ever you find it unsatisfactory. You also remain free to add assets, withdraw assets, or modify the terms of the trust.
Can resourceful management and responsive financial services eliminate all threats to financial security? Not quite. Always there remains an element of luck. But as a wise person has said, you can’t hope to be lucky. You have to prepare to be lucky.
We look forward to assisting you in your preparations.
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