Silicon Valley Estate Planning Journal

News and Articles from the Law Offices of John C. Martin

The Truth About Personal Risk Management Part 2: Using Trusts in Estate Planning

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Paying insurance premiums to protect against potential losses frees us mentally to enjoy driving a car, leave our house empty while on vacation and receive medical treatment for an injury or illness. In the same way, the use of trusts acts like insurance and can shift anxiety to comfort, turmoil to peace, and complexity to understanding. 
The Key Takeaways
Trusts provide a protective cure for many of the financial anxieties, concerns, frustrations and hassles we fear for ourselves and loved ones.
Trusts also provide similar assurances for business owners and for those with considerable assets.
The benefit of planning is peace of mind for you and your family now.
What Are Risks Related to Estate Planning?
Proper estate planning can protect you against awful things that can happen to you, your family and your assets. These can include: a costly and public court guardianship/conservatorship if you or your spouse becomes incapacitated; being kept in a vegetative state; a potentially costly and time consuming probate process after you die; federal and state estate taxes; a will contest or heirs fighting over your assets; your surviving spouse not having enough money to live on; irresponsible spending by a beneficiary; an inheritance becoming part of a beneficiary’s divorce proceedings; an inheritance not making it to the intended beneficiary (i.e., left to an adult for the benefit of a minor); and an inheritance not being used according to your values and beliefs.
What You Need to Know: Not addressing these risks can cause you pain, worry, frustration, anxiety, fear and anguish. And, if any of these awful things should happen to you or a loved one, your quality of life can suffer.
Why Use Trusts for Your Broader Financial and Wealth Planning?
There are many different trusts that can be used to address a wide range of your circumstances, needs, anxieties, and aspirations. Take a simple but important example of trusts’ capabilities:  the living trust. Most people want to avoid court interference at incapacity (i.e., disability) and at death, and a living trust solves this worry. When you establish a living trust, you transfer your assets to it and select someone to step in and manage them for you when you are not able to do so. Because the assets are no longer in your name, the court has no reason to get involved at either incapacity or death; your successor can manage your assets according to your instructions for as long as necessary. 
More broadly, trusts can hold investments, property and insurance policies, with benefits of reducing various taxes and protecting your wealth from lawsuits and creditors. A trust can continue beyond your lifetime—assets can be kept in a trust until your beneficiaries reach the age(s) you want them to inherit, to provide for a loved one with special needs, or to protect an inheritance from beneficiaries’ creditors, spouses and future death taxes. A trust will also let you provide for your surviving spouse without disinheriting your children.
What You Need to Know
Trusts, in their various forms, offer you a robust package of dollar and quality-of-life benefits. And, trusts are fully compatible with your various investments and assets, from mutual funds to stocks (both public and private) to insurance policies to property.
Actions to Consider
Become aware of the financial, wealth and estate planning risks you and your family face, and how they can be managed or completely avoided with the use of trusts. 
An advisor and trust/estate planning attorney will be able to help you become an informed consumer.
List the fears and anxieties you have for yourself and your loved ones concerning your wealth.
Compare the costs associated with planning and implementation to the financial and emotional value you will receive. 
Keep in mind that while trusts have set-up costs, overall costs can be less over time by avoiding court expenses and delays, saving on a variety of taxes, eliminating exposure to legal costs, and so forth.
Life insurance inside a trust is an excellent way to provide a larger inheritance for your loved ones.
If you are a business owner, investigate the many benefits that trusts can provide for your business wealth.
Don’t procrastinate. Trusts have as much application for the living as for those who pass on. Put your plan into effect now based on your current circumstances, and then make changes as needed. Acting now will give you the peace of mind you desire.
If you require counsel, contact a Menlo Park trusts and estates attorney today. 

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