Why Do I Need Estate Planning?
Estate planning is often misunderstood and sometimes overlooked. Estate planning has nothing to do with how much money you have. It’s about control and protection. Ironically, those with the least need maximum control and protection of their savings the most. Without an estate plan you forfeit your control. If you do not have an estate plan, whether it includes a will, a trust or both, by default the state of Louisiana will decide what happens to your assets before and after your death. If you do not want to turn over control of your assets to the government, it is important to contact a skilled estate planning attorney and put your estate planning in place before it is too late.
For more than 40 years, Walker Law Group, L.L.C., has guided clients in maintaining maximum control and protection over their assets before and after death through effective estate planning including the strategic use of trusts. Founding attorney H. Gregory Walker Jr. specializes in helping families protect their future and their hard-earned assets in these uncertain times we live in. You get simple and straightforward answers from Mr. Walker.
Guidance On Types Of Trusts
Mr. Walker has unparalleled knowledge about trusts – which, like wills, are created while a person is still alive. Wills are public instructions to a judge. While you do have some control following your death with a will, that control is limited and subject to court rules and implementation by a judge. A will does not control or protect your assets while you are alive.
Thus, a will only provides limited control of your assets following your death. In contrast, trusts are a contract you create setting forth your instructions on how your assets should be handled before and after your death, implemented privately thus eliminating your loss of control to the court system. It is important to understand that trusts are not an entity in the sense of an artificial person such as a company.
A trust is a written contract containing your rules. The person that you pick will implement your rules. Mr. Walker can draft your trust agreement to provide that while you are alive and capable, you are the person who will implement the rules contained in your trust agreement. Three key advantages of trusts compared with wills are readily apparent. They allow you to avoid the costly and time-consuming court probate process, they are private and not a matter of public record, and they give you enormous control over your assets both before and following your death.
Walker Law Group, L.L.C. can provide insight into how trusts can be drafted to control and protect your assets. A few examples are:
- Probate avoidance trusts: Using a probate avoidance trust allows you maximum control of your assets after your death. You pick the best person for the job of getting things to your loved ones instead of relying on one of the judges at the courthouse. Things are handled in strict accordance with your rules and not court rules. Unlike a judge, the person you choose to implement your instructions following death can be given contingent plans in the event the circumstances actually existing at the time of your death are not as you envisioned. This provides you with tremendous control that others who rely on the court system do not have. Having your estate settled out of the court system not only gives you complete control but saves time and eliminates costly legal fees and court costs. By having your own rules implemented away from the court system, you make things easy for your heirs and have peace of mind knowing that following your death things will be handled the way you want and not controlled by lawyers and judges.
- Asset protection trusts: A skilled attorney can draft your trust agreement to include language restricting how your assets can be used while at the same time giving you the sole control and income from your assets. For example, many people give their assets away to their children for the purpose of making them “unavailable” assets in order to qualify for means tested benefits such as nursing home long term care benefits. In most situations we recommend against giving your assets away to your children to protect them. Think about it. How can giving something away protect it for you? It’s gone, you no longer own or control it. Instead of making your assets unavailable by giving your children ownership, control and any income, you can accomplish the same thing by simply adding appropriate provisions in your trust agreement that contractually limit asset availability.
- Supplemental needs trusts: Families who have children with special needs are faced with a serious dilemma. They worry that leaving an inheritance to their child or grandchild will result in the child losing what are often substantial government benefits, especially benefits for costly medications and medical treatments. It isn’t fair that your loved one must lose an inheritance just because they may be disabled. Fortunately, a skilled attorney like Mr. Walker can draft a trust agreement that will allow a family to leave an unlimited amount of assets to a disabled person without that person losing eligibility to receive government benefits. The key is to draft the trust agreement to provide that the inheritance is to be used to supplement and not supplant government benefits. The trust agreement can also provide for what happens to any assets left after the death of the disabled heir. A supplemental needs trust avoids the pitfalls of leaving ownership of assets to a third-party who “will know what to do with them.”
- Retirement protection trusts: A retirement protection trust is the only way you can control and protect your hard-earned retirement savings after your death. By leaving your retirement account to your beneficiary through your retirement protection trust, you make sure that your rules control the distribution of your retirement funds. This keeps your retirement out of the control of a spendthrift child, unforeseen creditors of your spouse and children, and predators such as nursing homes and in-laws.
Making Changes To Your Trust
Unfortunately, everything you read about trusts suggests that trusts only come in two flavors, revocable or irrevocable. This is incorrect. Your trust agreement does not have to be one or the other. Since a trust is a contract, your ability to make changes or revoke all or parts of the trust depends on the skill of the attorney drafting your trust agreement. An experienced attorney can draft a trust that for some purposes is treated the same as a revocable trust while for other purposes it is treated as an irrevocable trust. By employing this type of skill in drafting trust agreements for clients, Walker Law Group, L.L.C. can offer clients the flexibility of changing some parts of their trust while at the same time providing asset protection by not reserving the right to changes those provisions of the trust.
Mr. Walker and his team will provide simple and easy-to-understand explanations about the trust options available to you. For years, he has shared his extensive knowledge, experience and insight to the Alexandria community through his weekly radio program and free educational seminars on estate planning.
Contact A Skilled Attorney
Since 1976, Walker Law Group, L.L.C., in Alexandria, Louisiana, has provided clients with knowledgeable and important guidance in estate planning and the creation of trusts. For a free initial no-obligation consultation, please contact us online or call 318-445-4516.