To Trust or Not to Trust?

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To Trust or Not to Trust?

Q. I read your blog all the time and want to ask you why you don’t like trusts since, after all, they do avoid probate.

A. Thanks for reading my blog and for asking me this question. First and foremost, it is not correct to conclude that I do not like trusts. I like them for folks who need them and should have them. I’ve come to understand that too often, trusts are marketed as being the “do all and be all” of estate planning. In my opinion, that’s wrong. If the purpose of having a trust is to avoid probate, then I have continually maintained that for many, many people, there are easier and less costly ways to avoid probate when one passes on. Here are some ways to avoid probate without the necessity of having a trust: joint accounts, with right of survivorship, payable on death accounts (also called transfer on death accounts), “in trust for” accounts. Further, IRAs automatically result in transfers on death so long as a beneficiary is named for the account. The same is true for annuities and life insurance and other forms of pension plans. Now, I do think that trusts are very good estate planning vehicles for disability planning and estate planning where for whatever the reason, the owner of assets does not wish to manage his or her business matters. HOWEVER, after saying that, a well-drafted durable power of attorney that is in compliance with Florida’s 2011 durable power of attorney statute, is just as effective, in my opinion.


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