Hungry for some BBQ ribs? What if you went to your favorite “ribs” restaurant and you were served a plate of bones with no meat on them. Just the bare bones. Not appealing – and not at all useful.
That’s what I mean by “barebones” trusts. There are trusts available for your use that are “barebones” trusts. They have very little substance, and they are not very appealing or useful once you understand what they are (or are not). If a trust is valid under state law, and if your assets are titled to the trust, then it will serve the basic function of avoiding probate at the time of death, but that’s about it. Other than probate avoidance, many trusts are like a plate of bare bones. What are they missing?
- Divorce protection (and the current generation and subsequent generations)
- Lawsuit protection
- Second-marriage protection (when your widow-spouse remarries, will your assets go to the new wife or new husband, or his or her kids?)
- Trustee protection (who will administer, or carry out, the terms of the trust – will it be an amateur or a person with sufficient time, ability and competency?)
- “Holdback” provisions (so the trustee can keep your children’s assets from getting tangled up in their possible legal problems, divorces, addictions and more)
- Special Needs protection (so that the inheritance you intend for a disabled beneficiary -- or healthy beneficiary who later becomes disabled – does not disqualify him or her from receiving Social Security disability and/or Medicaid benefits)
- Grandchildren protections (so that you can ensure that your grandchildren receive financial assistance for college or vocational school and other worthy pursuits)
- Incentive protections (so that your beneficiaries/heirs “earn” their inheritance through good behaviors, character development, work ethic, etc.)
- Legacy provisions (allowing the trust to tell a story of your values, principles, wisdom, life lessons, experiences – often the greatest gift you can leave is a noble legacy)
So, there’s some “meat” to put on otherwise “barebones” trusts. Where do you get those “meatless” trusts? From the Internet and off-the-shelf software programs that purport to give you everything you “need” at a fraction of the cost. Also, if an attorney can’t look you in the eye and claim to be an expert in trusts, and if his/her fee seems almost too good to be true, that may be a signal that you’re going to get what you pay for: something of substance that appeals to your sense of value – or something that appears to have substance but really doesn’t.