By Bernard A. Krooks, Certified Elder Law Attorney
Here are the top 10 reasons to consider a trust (in no particular order). There are many different types of trusts and one size does not fit all.
1. You don’t want your estate to go through the probate process. While the probate process is probably not as bad as you think, it has gotten more cumbersome lately due to budget cuts and less help at the courthouse. So, as lawyers, we can try to convince you that probate is not that bad, or, we can just help you avoid it.
2. You prefer privacy. Once you pass away and your will is probated, it becomes a public document. You might say, “why should I care, I will be dead,” however, your family and beneficiaries will be mentioned in the will and those surviving you might care. This is a concern for not only famous and/or wealthy people, but also many “ordinary” folks who value their privacy and might prefer to create a trust.
3. You want to make it easier for the person who will handle your affairs if you become incapacitated or after you pass away. Practically speaking, it’s easier for a successor trustee to get control of your assets than it is for that same person when they are named as agent under a power of attorney or as executor of your estate.
4. You have a complex situation. Most people don’t think their affairs are complicated. They view their estate as “simple.” However, once they become incapacitated or die, it becomes apparent that things are not so “simple.” By placing your assets into a trust, you make things much easier for your successors to manage your assets.
5. You have complicated distribution plans. Let’s say you want to limit how much of an inheritance a beneficiary is to receive at certain points in time. By having a trust in place, you will be able to have more control over how much the beneficiary receives and when they receive it.
6. You have real estate in more than one state. Question: What could be worse than having your estate go through probate? Answer: Having to go through probate in two states. Some states are much more complicated and expensive than New York. So, if you have real estate in more than one state, you might want to think about a living trust.
7. You have professional children, or wealthy children. Why do they need their inheritances to be in trust? They don’t — but it’s an extra gift from you to put them in trust.
8. You have minor children, or children (or grandchildren). Thus, it makes sense for many clients to leave an inheritance for a child in trust until a certain age when they may be in position to make a better decision about the use of funds.
9. You have a family member who is just not good with money. You might want to provide some sort of management for that beneficiary’s share of your estate.
10. You have a child or grandchild with a disability. Are they receiving public benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid? You may need to create a special needs trust for any share they will receive.
Talk to your lawyer about the benefits of having a trust(s) as part of your estate plan.
Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., is a founding partner of Littman Krooks LLP and has been honored as one of the “Best Lawyers” in America for each of the last seven years. He is past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and past President of the New York Chapter of NAELA. Mr. Krooks has also served as chair of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. He has been selected as a “New York Super Lawyer” since 2006. Mr. Krooks may be reached at (914-684-2100) or by visiting the firm’s website at www.elderlawnewyork.com.