We know from events this week that we are fragile, and this life is temporary. Elizabeth Cox and her family were celebrating her recovery from cancer at the beach. They were crushed by a 1000-year-old cliff that collapsed. Twenty more people were killed while shopping at Walmart in El Paso. Who would’ve thought about these events as they left their cars in the parking lot. So, let’s reflect for a moment about wills and trusts.
If you own anything of value, you should have both. (I am not an attorney and you should consult one.) This is what I have learned in my business. Mr. Jones owned a house and failed to put it into his existing trust. It could not be sold immediately because the only legal owner had died. Mr. Jones left no will. His 26-year-old daughter has to wait on attorneys and possibly courts to declare her as the sole heir. She is fortunate that the other parties to Mr. Jones trust are not contesting. It will likely take many months.
Mr. Simpson Jr. had power of attorney for Mr. Simpson Sr. There was a trust and a will; however, Junior was not noted as the successor trustee at the bank where Senior’s substantial accounts were deposited. Power of attorney expired with Simpson Sr. Junior had to pay for funeral expenses, mortgages, and utilities before he could access the bank account six weeks later. Junior was the successor trustee, but he had to prove that to the bank when his father could have let the bank know in advance.
If you own more than a few thousand dollars, you may need a trust. A will is important, but the trust is even more so because of the other protections it provides. Google “Why a trust?“ Trusts can protect your privacy instead of being on display in court during probate. In some cases there is protection from taxes. A trust can make provisions for an heir that is incapable of managing his or her own inheritance. You don’t want to arrive at that final meeting as unprepared as I was without my belt.
If you have adult children, have that frank discussion with them now because tomorrow is promised to no one.