kiecker law estate planning

Why Do I Need a Revocable Trust?

We previously discussed what a trust is and how it functions. Please read that post first to better understand how a trust works.

A revocable trust is probably the most common type of trust that we see. A good way to think of a revocable trust is that it is the trust that is used in most situations. You may have a special circumstance such as a special needs child or want the trust to distribute your assets to a charity, but most people that want or need a trust will write a revocable trust. 

So, what is a revocable trust? Well, first of all, we’d suggest reading our blog on what trusts are. If you recall, we compared a trust to an empty box to store your assets in. A revocable trust allows you to put your assets into a legal device to protect those assets, but still allow you to control the asset. For example, you may want to put your house into a revocable trust so that when you pass away, it can more easily pass to your heirs. The nice thing about a revocable trust is that you are able to change whether an asset is held within the trust. That’s what makes it revocable, you can move your assets in and out of that metaphorical box.

That begs the question, why would you WANT to put your stuff into that trust? That’s a question that has multiple answers. This is why it is the most flexible, it can solve a lot of different problems. A huge driver for people wanting a revocable trust is their family. People want to protect their family and they want to take care of their family financially into the future. 

Some people may want to leave a legacy for their family. If you have more than $3 million in assets, you may want a revocable trust. Why? Simply put, it is the random number that the state of Minnesota has decided estates get taxed. So, if you want to pass assets on to the next generation and want to limit the amount of taxes that are paid, a trust is one avenue to do that. We won’t get into the specific details on this as this post would end up being way too long and dry. 

Along the same lines of wanting to pass on your assets to your kids, you may have an adult child that is not very wise with money. Say for example, you have a child that has a drug or alcohol problem, the last thing you want to do is give them a boatload of money to feed their habit. Sure, you may want to take care of them, but you don’t want a windfall to be a detriment to them. What you may be able to do is set conditions so that your gift to your children is used wisely.

Maybe your gift to your children is the family cabin. A revocable trust would allow you to keep that cabin in the family and would allow you to pass it down to future generations. It’s a great way to make sure that taxes don’t eat up the entire value of something that you worked hard and can continue to bring your family together.

The last reason that we’re going to touch on is protecting your family. Placing your assets in a trust provides privacy. The figurative box blocks your nosy neighbor from seeing what you have and what you’re passing on to your kids. Any assets that are placed into trust do not have to go through the probate process. That means it is not public record and people won’t just be able to go online and know all of your financial business. That also means that the probate process is typically shorter and, in fact, may allow you to avoid probate. Your trust will lay out what should happen to your stuff and it won’t need to go through the legal proceedings. It will likely reduce the potential issues that may arise legally and reduce the heartache that your family has to go through.

Regardless of your goals, you will want to do a full evaluation along with your attorney so you can make sure a revocable trust is the correct option for you. There is no one-size-fits-all in estate planning so it’s very important to make sure you’re using the correct tool. A revocable trust is one tool, and it is a good one, but it may or may not be the right tool. Make sure you work along with your trusted advisors to make sure you are doing what’s best for you.

kiecker law estate planning trusts

What is a Trust?

Estate planning is complicated. There are many different tools, methods and strategies that can be used. And none of them are necessarily wrong. Each tool and method has its place and if they aren’t used correctly can lead to wasting your money or, even worse, may not accomplish the goals you are setting. 

One of the best ways to think about the tools and strategies is to think of them like cars. Imagine you own a Chevy Impala. A new Chevy Impala is a VERY NICE car. It gets the job done. It’s a nice vehicle with a lot of features that make you comfortable while you’re driving to your final destination. It can’t, however, be compared with luxury vehicles like BMWs or Mercedes. Luxury vehicles get the job done and they do it in more luxurious ways and usually do the job more efficiently and effectively. The next class includes Lamborghinis or Ferraris. Again, they are just a little bit nicer and do a few more things.

You can think of estate planning in the same way except that with cars we look at preference of vehicle whereas with estate planning strategies we look at what is needed. Wills are a great way to accomplish the goals of most people analogous to the Chevy Impala. Wills make sure your stuff goes to the right people and who takes care of your kids if you die. In estate planning trusts are a good way to accomplish additional goals including keeping your estate private or taking care of a special needs child. Trusts do all of the things that a will does, but adds other benefits. This is analogous to the Mercedes. It’s gets the job done, may do it more efficiently and can make things easier for your heirs. Lastly, we have the Lamborghini like advanced strategies that work along with will and trust. This can include planned giving strategies or family gifting strategies. All of these strategies and tools have their place. 

For now we’re going to focus on the Mercedes, or the trust. To be clear, there are many different types of trusts each of which are structured to accomplish a specific goal. There are revocable trusts, special needs trusts, charitable remainder trusts and irrevocable life insurance trusts among others. In the future we will get into specific trusts. Today, we’re just going to learn what a trust is and what it does.

Simply put, a trust is like a box. The trust itself is just a container that you put stuff in. So rather than putting shoes or a phone or food or any other retail item you can name into the box, you place (or title) your assets in the trust (ie the box). A trust is useless if no assets are placed into. Just like a box is just full of air if you don’t put anything in it, a trust is empty if it doesn’t “own” your assets. This all begs the question of why on earth would you want a different entity from yourself to own your house or your bank accounts or any other valuable asset?  

Again, there reasons are endless. You could be planning for a seamless transition of your house or business to your son or daughter. You could be attempting to minimize estate taxes. You could be attempting to shelter your assets so that you can more cost effectively pay for a nursing home or assisted living for yourself. You could be caring for your special needs child so that they can receive disability benefits. 

Like previously stated, the end goals can vary. Within an estate plan, you still need a will, a power of attorney and a health care directive. A trust is an addition to your estate plan. It takes a bit more work and paper work, but it offers additional benefits. In the next couple of months we’ll dig into some more specific reasons for a trust and specific types of trusts, but understanding what a trust is and how it is structured is the first step in evaluating if you need a trust. You may not NEED the Mercedes, but we want to make sure why you may need one and help you to figure out if you actually do need one.

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