That Last Step: Trust Funding

Neglecting to fund trusts is a surprisingly common mistake, and one that can undo the best estate and tax plans. Many people put it on the back burner, then forget about it, says the article “Don’t Overlook Your Trust Funding” from Forbes.

Done properly, trust funding helps avoid probate, provides for you and your family in the event of incapacity and helps save on estate taxes.

Creating a revocable trust gives you control. With a revocable trust, you can make changes to the trust while you are living, including funding. Think of a trust like an empty box—you can put assets in it now, or after you pass. If you transfer assets to the trust now, however, your executor won’t have to do it when you die.

Note that if you don’t put assets in the trust while you are living, those assets will go through the probate process. While the executor will have the authority to transfer assets, they’ll have to get court approval. That takes time and costs money. It is best to do it while you are living.

A trust helps if you become incapacitated. You may be managing the trust while you are living, but what happens if you die or become too sick tdgo manage your own affairs? If the trust is funded and a successor trustee has been named, the successor trustee will be able to manage your assets and take care of you and your family. If the successor trustee has control of an empty, unfunded trust, a conservatorship may need to be appointed by the court to oversee assets.

There’s a tax benefit to trusts. For married people, trusts are often created that contain provisions for estate tax savings that defer estate taxes until the death of the second spouse. Income is provided to the surviving spouse and access to the principal during their lifetime. The children are usually the ultimate beneficiaries. However, the trust won’t work if it’s empty.

Depending on where you live, a trust may benefit you with regard to state estate taxes. Putting money in the trust takes it out of your taxable estate. You’ll need to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure that the assets are properly structured. For instance, if your assets are owned jointly with your spouse, they will not pass into a trust at your death and won’t be outside of your taxable estate.

Move the right assets to the right trust. It’s very important that any assets you transfer to the trust are aligned with your estate plan. Taxable brokerage accounts, bank accounts and real estate are usually transferred into a trust. Some tangible assets may be transferred into the trust, as well as any stocks from a family business or interests in a limited liability company. Your estate planning attorney, financial advisor and insurance broker should be consulted to avoid making expensive mistakes.

You’ve worked hard to accumulate assets and protecting them with a trust is a good idea. Just don’t forget the final step of funding the trust.

Reference: Forbes (July 13, 2020) “Don’t Overlook Your Trust Funding”

 

What are Fiduciary Duties in Estate Planning?

One of the reasons people uses trusts in their estate planning, is that the person named as a trustee has a legal duty to put the trust’s interests first, rather than their own interests. This is called a “fiduciary duty,” and it becomes very important when planning for the future of your assets and family. It’s an enforceable legal obligation says the article “Fiduciary Duties in Trusts and Estate Planning” from yahoo! finance.

A trustee is the person appointed to be in charge of a trust. There are many different kinds of trusts, created to own assets, including money, life insurance policies and homes. The person named as trustee in the trust document makes decisions about the trust assets to benefit the beneficiary’s best interests.

Trusts created while a person is living are known, appropriately enough, as living trusts. There are people who choose to be their own trustees and manage their trusts for as long as they are able. Married couples may be co-trustees on their trusts. The trust documents should be prepared, so that upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse becomes the trustee and manages the account.

The person creating the trust should also name a successor trustee. This is the person who will manage the trust when the trustee or the co-trustees are no longer competent to manage the trust. That might be because they have died or because they have become incapacitated due to an injury or illness.

The fiduciary duties of a trustee are to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. These are some guidelines:

  • The assets a trustee manages do not belong to them, and the trustee must not mix personal assets with assets in the trust.
  • A trustee may not use the trust’s assets for their benefit.
  • The trustee must not favor one beneficiary over the other.
  • The trustee must follow the directions in the trust document.
  • The trustee must keep accurate records, file tax returns and report to beneficiaries, as directed in the trust.

There are three fiduciary duties when it comes to a trust: loyalty, care and full disclosure. The trustee(s) must act in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries. This is a high standard and why the decision on who to name as a trustee is so important.

The terms of every trust vary, depending on the type of trust and the needs of the estate plan. The trustee needs to be familiar with the trust and its directions, so they can perform correctly.

An estate planning attorney is needed to draft trusts, so they reflect the wishes of the person and their goals. Using a downloaded form or even a standard legal form is a big risk for families.

Reference: yahoo! finance (July 8, 2020) “Fiduciary Duties in Trusts and Estate Planning”

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Can I Disinherit Anyone I Want?
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Can I Disinherit Anyone I Want?

If there’s someone you believe is more deserving or needs more of your help, that may mean someone else in your life may receive little or nothing from you when you die. However, be careful—disinheriting an heir is not as simple as leaving them out of your will, explains the article “How to Disinherit an Heir” from smart asset.

Disinheriting an heir means you’ve prevented them from receiving a portion of your estate, when you die. A local estate planning lawyer will know what your state requires, and every state’s laws are different.

One way is by leaving the person out completely. However, this could also leave your will up for interpretation, as there may be questions raised about your intent. A challenge could be raised that you didn’t mean to leave them out—and that could create stress, expenses and family fights.

You may also disinherit a person, by stating in your will that you do not wish to leave anything to this specific person. You might even provide information about why you are doing this, so your intent is clear. There could still be challenges, even with your providing reasons for cutting the person out of your will.

Disinheriting someone can be a tricky thing to do. It requires professional help. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney who has experience in will contests, may be your best choice for an estate planning attorney.

There are instances where relatives known and unknown to you are entitled to make a claim on your estate. An experienced estate planning attorney may suggest a search for relatives to ensure that no surprises come out of the woodwork, after your passing.

There are some relatives who cannot be disinherited, even in a legally binding last will and testament. In many states, you may not disinherit your spouse or children. Most states protect spouses from being disinherited, and in some states, children are legally entitled to a certain amount of your property. However, in most states, you may disinherit parents, if they outlive you.  In Massachusetts, you can disinherit your children, provided you mention that you are do so.

There are many reasons you may want to disinherit someone. You may have been estranged from a child or a cousin for many years, or you may believe they have enough financial resources and want someone else to receive an inheritance from you.

Many high-profile individuals have declared that their children will not receive an inheritance, preferring to give their assets to charitable foundations or organizations working for causes they support.

Whatever your reasons for disinheriting someone, make sure you go about it with professional help to ensure that your wishes are followed after you die.

Reference: smart asset (June 1, 2020) “How to Disinherit an Heir”

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