Late night talk show host David Letterman gives his Top Ten list every show. I’d like to suggest to you my own Top Ten list, about ten families who need to set up a trust to protect their assets in the case of disability or death of one of their family members. A trust can be a wonderful device for your family even if your family has just one or two of these circumstances.
10. Family number ten is the family that owns real estate in another state. When the family’s owner of that property dies, you will usually be looking at a probate proceeding both in that state (such as Florida, Arizona or North Dakota) as well as a probate in Minnesota. A family trust can avoid a probate proceeding in both states.
9. Family number nine are the families who have a family member that is physically or mentally disabled. A trust can provide care for that family member long after Mom or Dad has passed away. What’s more, if the disabled person is receiving public assistance, a special needs trust can provide financial help to the disabled person without jeopardizing his or her public assistance benefits.
8. Family number eight is the family that has one or more spouses who are not financially sophisticated. If Dad or Mom was making most of the financial decisions while they are both alive, it’s important that the survivor between the two of them will be able to continue to live in the family home in the lifestyle that they are used to. A trust can help make this a reality.
7. Family number seven is the family where a member is not married to his or her significant other. Many people that have experienced a divorce are reluctant to formally tie the knot. If they buy a house, have children or accumulate other assets with their significant other, a trust for them or the family may be a good idea.
6. Family number six is the family with a child or grandchild who can’t control his spending. We’ve all seen a young person (or even an older person) who is always short of money and often engages in unwise spending. Sometimes the spending is on drugs or gambling. A trust can provide what we call “spendthrift” provisions that can help protect the imprudent child from himself and his reckless spending habits.
5. Family number five is the family with a member who is gay or lesbian. The Minnesota Law of wills and intestates is slanted in favor of straight persons. A gay or lesbian person needs a trust and other estate planning to protect himself or herself and their partner that will level the playing field. A trust can help provide disability instructions and inheritance provisions that assure that the planning wishes of the gay person are carried out.
4. Family number four is the family where Mom or Dad might not die at the same time. What this means is that the surviving parent may remarry after the other spouse dies. The new stepfather or stepmother may take the inheritance to which the children of Mom or Dad would otherwise be entitled. A well-drafted trust can deal with this very common situation.
3. Family number three is the family who has assets over $200,000. The size of the estate is not always a guide to whether or not to have a trust. However, when the assets are sizeable, the temptations for even upright or religious families can be intense. Possible financial abuse of the parent or the estate becomes more likely. A good trust will reduce the temptations and provide a sensible roadway for handling the assets. A trust can thus promote family harmony.
2. Family number two is the family where either spouse has children by a prior marriage. Remember Cinderella? Her Father married her stepmother who hated Cinderella. The Grimm Brothers told that tale because from the beginning of time, there has almost always been hostility between children of a first marriage and their stepmother or stepfather. A trust can address these tensions and provide a roadmap that clarifies the inheritance between children and their step-parent.
1. The most common family circumstance is the family that wants to avoid probate proceedings after the death of the parent. Probate can be expensive, stressful and uncertain. What’s more, probate proceedings reveal private family information. A trust can avoid probate and all the loss of time, peace of mind, expense and privacy.
There you have the ten families that need a trust. Does one or more of them describe your family’s situation?