A Trust is NOT All You Need
Many people have been to trust seminars, or read about trusts in the paper, and believe that if they have a trust, their estate plans are finished. That is not true. The trust is an important part of an estate plan (the centerpiece) but not the entire plan. Other important documents include:
- A WILL. Yes, you need a will, even if you have a trust. A trustee (a person who has the legal obligation to manage the assets of the trust according to the terms of the trust) can only administer and distribute assets that are owned by the trust. If there are any assets not in the trust (such as insurance proceeds or personal property) a probate will be required. The Will should state that any assets not in the trust at your death shall be transferred to the trustee.
- An ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE. An Advance Directive permits another person to make health care decisions for you, including decisions about life support systems, long-term care, pain relief, organ donation, and funeral and burial or cremation. This document is becoming increasingly important because there is no longer a presumption that family members are entitled to disclosure of medical information without written authorization from the patient.
- A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A Power of Attorney allows a person to take administrative action for you (signing tax returns or legal documents) and manage non-trust assets (retirement plan assets, government benefits, etc.) for you if you are incapacitated. A properly drafted Power of Attorney may avoid the need for a conservatorship if you are incapacitated.
These documents allow for continued administration of your estate if you become incapacitated, without the oversight and expense of a conservatorship.
When all of these documents are put together, peace of mind for you and your family can be achieved by knowing that all scenarios have been addressed. At the Law Office of Newell & Havens, we provide not only a paper copy for you, but a thumb drive for your successor trustee to refer to should you become incapacitated. The thumb drive also has our handbook, “I’m a Successor Trustee. Now What Do I Do?”, which gives instructions and forms for the successor trustee. For more information, contact us at (626) 385-6303 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to help.