Another great question!  This post is a continuation of my post about how trusts can benefit families with young children.  I’ve also been asked several times why someone in their later years should have a trust.  In many cases the folks expect their children to take care of everything.

I’ve seen this scenario all too often – estate taxes (or higher estate taxes), probate costs, children or grandchildren spending their inheritance in a short period of time, infighting over who gets what, being unprepared for incapacity, and the list goes on.  As I mentioned previously, trusts are increasingly being used as a way to avoid probate and “substitute” for a will.  So, the first benefit is that all the assets titled in the name of the trust will bypass probate.  Emphasis on titled in the name of the trust.  This means you can save yourself the 6- to 9-month (or longer) probate process and the accompanying fees and costs – I’ve seen them average 3-5% of the probate estate (and some much higher).

Avoid estate taxes completely.  With 2011 quickly approaching and Congress focusing solely on healthcare, the odds of the estate tax exemption going back to only $1 million are starting to look more like a reality (as much as I hope that doesn’t happen).  The amount over $1 million will be taxed at up to a 55% rate!  And remember that life insurance is included in your estate for purposes of computing your estate tax.  Wouldn’t you rather that money go to your family or a charity?

Control how and when your children/grandchildren receive their inheritance.  Do you want your children/grandchildren receiving potentially hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars within a few months of you passing away?  Do you think they would save it or spend it wisely?  Or would they waste it on expensive “toys,” vacations, etc.?  Trusts allow you to keep the assets “in trust” for a long period of time – they can benefit from it in the ways and at the times YOU determine rather than needlessly squandering it.

Protect your hard-earned assets from your children’s/grandchildren’s creditors, ex-spouses, and lawsuits.  You can not only determine when and how they get access to the trust assets . . . you can set the trust up in a way that it can benefit them while being unreachable by their creditors, ex-spouses, and people or companies who may sue them.

Provide for immediate management of your assets if you are disabled. As many are aware, you are far more likely to become disabled/incapacitated at any given moment than you are to die.  Having your assets in a trust allows for the successor (back-up) trustee to quickly take over managing the assets for your and your family’s benefit, ensuring you receive the best possible care and your family is taken care of during your disability/incapacity.

These are just some of the benefits a trust can provide families later in life.  If you have questions or would like more information on any specific item, please contact us.  We are always happy to help parents and grandparents make the best decisions for their family throughout their lives and beyond.