When the topic of a will or trust comes up, the stock answer for the non-estate-planner is…
A trust? Oh yeah, I gotta get one of those.
It’s understandable enough: who wants to talks trusts? But, here’s the deal and I won’t beat around the bush: it would be wrong NOT to sell you on this stuff. Let’s break it down into five easy pieces.
1. If You Own a Home, You HAVE to Have a Trust…. Because Brad Pitt Says So.
Well, sort of– read on. See, sometimes the choice IS that simple. If you have a home, you have to have a trust. This living trust rule begins (of course) with… Brad Pitt.
Brad Pitt’s a man’s man. Guys wanna be like him, women wanna be with him. Now, you’re not exactly like him: he’s better looking and more wealthy than you. But, you can at least do as Brad does in this case– by getting a living trust (I don’t represent Brad, but I guarantee you he has a living trust). And you don’t need to be rich (or good looking) to need a trust.
If you own a home worth, say $500,000 and it’s NOT transferred to a trust, then your heirs will inherit that home less costs easily in excess of $25,000!
This is because without a trust, the property must pass through probate, a process that exacts exorbitant fees taken out of the asset. Moreover, without a trust, transfer of the property (change of title) would easily take a year’s-plus time.
To complete our shameless exploitation of celebrity, we return to Brad Pitt’s recitation of the Rules of Fight Club (from the nihilistic cult film of the same name).
In a basement scene, Brad intones that the First Rule of Fight Club is, “You do not talk about Fight Club.” In case you sensed a loophole, the Second Rule of Fight Club is “You do not TEXT about Fight Club.” There’s more, like the Sixth Rule (“No shirts, no shoes, no suspenders, no neckties.”) before we reach the Eighth and Final Rule of Fight Club:
“If it’s your first time at Fight Club… you HAVE to fight.”
And, of course, it’s that exact concept that applies to your home:
“If you have a home… you HAVE to have a trust.”
2. Getting a Trust Isn’t About YOU! It’s About Your Loved Ones or: Headless Chickens are Bad.
Procrastination rules! But as much as it’s precious, life is unpredictable and we can’t ignore our mortality.
An estate plan provides for more than just a trust to shield your home from costs of probate: it spells out your wishes so that your loved ones aren’t left burdened by questions.
Face it: leaving loved ones behind without instruction can compound the devastation of loss. We mustn’t be remembered for procrastination. Without an estate plan in place (including a living trust), grieving heirs will be left to worry, wonder and run like chickens without heads. Don’t let headless chickens be your legacy.
And you wanna know something else? Heirs won’t just be headless: they’ll be… angry. When they should be permitted to focus on remembrance, they’ll be consumed instead by logistics and uncertainty. That’s not a cool way to leave things. Be cool.
I don’t mean Fonzie-cool or anything: I mean be cool by being forward-thinking.
3. An Estate Plan Affects You During Your Lifetime!
Allow me to correct your morbid assumptions. Estate planning doesn’t just concern handling of property after death. Along with a living trust, estate planning includes a durable general power of attorney. If you’re living, but temporarily incapacitated, a power of attorney appoints someone to take over your financial affairs. Again, don’t go beheading chickens.
4. An Estate Plan Carries Out Your Health Care Wishes. Just ask George Clooney.
I can’t promise he’ll answer, but read on.
A durable general power of attorney appoints persons to handle financial affairs. An estate plan also includes an Advance Health Care Directive, which appoints persons to make your health care choices, when you cannot (due to incapacity).
In The Descendants, a film from 2011, a cuckolded Clooney’s comatose wife has an advance health care directive providing that extraordinary measures should not be taken to prolong her life. An advance health care directive will spell out your preferences. So even if you’ve cheated on George Clooney, you’ll still get your way: he won’t override your wishes.
5. An Estate Plan Is Easy and Cheap (and what’s better than easy and cheap)?
Sounds tacky, but really that’s the bottom line. An Estate Plan, including a living trust, will, power of attorney and advance health care directive saves money, time and uncertainty. It’s a no brainer. If you think it’s costly, you’re wrong. Attorney fees are flat and limited. If you think it’s hard, you’re wrong. An estate planning attorney will give you step-by-step instruction.
An Estate Plan Cannot Wait.
By the Law Office of Asaph Abrams, estate planning specialists.
The Law Office of Asaph Abrams and Of Counsel, Ronald F Woods: offering free, no-obligation consultations in San Diego.
Photo credits: Brad Pitt by Stemoc CC BY 2.0; George Clooney by CC BY-SA 3.0; Photo of Henry Winkler as Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli is in the public domain; Family photos by Robin’s Nest Photography.