Tag Archives: Revocable Living Trust

Talking to Heirs About Their Inheritance

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Do your heirs know how much they stand to inherit from you?  Have you ever received an unexpected inheritance?  Many clients debate how they should notify their heirs of the amount and extent of the expected inheritance.  On April 22, 2013, the Wall Street Journal published an aptly-titled article “The Inheritance Conversation. Ugh.”  Many fear the inheritance topic and avoid the subject just as they avoid adequate estate planning.  However, there are practical steps you can take to assure that your heirs are prepared for the receipt of assets and property.

Most recognize the importance of preparing and disclosing information about inheritance to their heirs, yet few take the time properly prepare their heirs.  Children should not receive much financial information until they reach their 20s.  While certain teenagers may be precocious and able to comprehend the value of a dollar, clients must be cautious to avoid undermining their work ethic. Simply telling children how much they stand to inherit can weaken the determination of even the most capable individuals.

Importantly, children of wealthy parents will not learn financial management by osmosis.  Parents must take an active role in educating and informing their children about financial planning and management.  Several advisors recommend a mentorship whereby the heirs are given an opportunity to manage a smaller portion of the assets.  As the heirs gain in knowledge and ability the children or others can be given more knowledge of the family’s wealth.

One crucial element is requiring heirs to secure and maintain jobs.  With their earnings, the heirs can be instructed on the importance of saving and sharing their assets. Most successful wealth transfers occur where children have learned the value of work and wages earned.

I continually remind clients that their best laid plans can be undone by unexpected health concerns or other financial catastrophes (see the most recent recession).  For those who have a revocable living trust, I urge them to remind their children that the children’s shares are not fixed and can be altered.  No one should expect or rely upon a set amount of money or assets passing to them.

Simply start with a basic conversation with family members and other heirs.  Avoiding this topic can cause confusion, mistrust and leave heirs unprepared to manage the family’s wealth.  For those who need assistance in this process, our office is experienced in wealth transfer planning.

Joe Paterno’s Will Reveals Little More Than Revocable Living Trust

Today, closing arguments are being held in the jury trial of accused sex offender Jerry Sandusky.  His former boss, legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, has created intrigue in an unrelated legal matter.  Paterno’s family sought court protection to seal Paterno’s will from public disclosure. After a local newspaper filed a motion to unseal the will, Paterno’s family made public his 1997 will and 2010 codicil to the will. 

ImageAfter reviewing the contents to the will and the codicil, there is nothing surprising or notable about their contents.  The family’s efforts to seal the testamentary documents seem unreasonable and misguided.  Typically, wills must be lodged with the county court or probate department before the decedent’s assets may be distributed.  Paterno’s will is a pour-over will meaning it directs any probate assets to be poured over to a revocable living trust.  Most likely, the Paterno revocable living trust specifies the distribution of Paterno’s assets. 

A revocable living trust is advantageous because you do not need to lodge the trust with the court.  The administration of the trust and distribution of the estate can take place outside of public review and records.  In addition, with advances in medicine and technology, individuals are living beyond their ability to manage their financial affairs.  Revocable living trusts allow successor trustees to take over and manage the financial affairs of those suffering from diminished capacity. 

Living trusts are only effective insofar as you title the assets properly.  Your assets should be titled in the name of the trust.  The Paterno will, a pour-over will, acts as a backstop in the event that an asset is not titled properly in the name of the trust.   Any asset that is not transferred into a living trust must pass through probate first prior to its distribution.  Oddly, the Paterno family has not filed a petition to initiate a probate of any assets.  The family efforts to seal the will and codicil appear unnecessary and unusual. As with the Sandusky trial, the Paterno will story may end this week. Or, future court proceedings may loom ahead.