Inheritance Trust

Under What Circumstances Should You Give a Trustee the Discretion to Make Distributions to a Trust Beneficiary?

How much discretion should you give a trustee when you establish a trust for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries?

Trusts are set up for many different reasons. Sometimes people want to leave assets at their death to others, but they don't want the inheritors to receive the inheritance in one lump sum. Some people who leave an inheritance want to dictate what the inheritance is to be used for, and under what conditions they can receive it.

For example, let's say a grandparent wants to leave $150,000 to his grandchild. At the time that the grandparent is establishing his estate legal program through a Last Will or Living Trust, the grandchild is only six years old. So the grandparents is advised to leave the bequest in a trust for the benefit of the grandchild.

One decision the grandparent must make is who should be the trustee of this trust after the grandparent dies. Let's say the grandparent selects grandparent's child as the trustee.

And now the decision comes regarding when distributions can be made to or for the grandchild, from the trust, by the trustee.

When you establish a trust like this, you will make a decision regarding whether you want the trustee to have discretion or no discretion in making trust decisions.

If you choose to allow the trustee to exercise discretion in making distributions, you might include trust language that permits the trustee to make distributions to or for a beneficiary for the "health, education, maintenance, and support," of the beneficiary. This can work well when you have a trustee that you know will exercise that discretion in the best interests of the beneficiary. When you choose this option, you may believe that you don't know what future circumstances may bring, and you trust that the trustee will exercise their discretion in a manner consistent with your overall objectives. Perhaps you even communicate to your trustee during your lifetime how you would want the trustee to exercise their discretion.

On the other hand, you may wish to remove all discretion from the trustee, by providing something like, "I direct the trustee to distribute $1,500 monthly to the beneficiary until trust principal is gone."

Or, you might even get more restrictive by stating that the beneficiary must meet certain standards (GPA, no criminal activity, no drug use, etc.) before distributions can be made. However, the more restrictions you place in the trust, the more difficult it will be for a trustee to adapt to circumstances that may not have been able to have been contemplated at the time of the creation of the trust.

So, granting lots of trustee discretion allows a trustee to use their discretion in a manner that is consistent with your overall objectives, but it may create a situation where a beneficiary is badgering the trustee to exercise their discretion, so you'd need to designate a trustee that has the ability to say, "NO" to a beneficiary when appropriate.

Or, you may choose to eliminate trustee discretion by imposing specific restrictions in the trust that must be met for distributions to be made.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

How to Keep Your Farm or "Family Property" in the Family for Future Generations

Many parents who have both children and grandchildren want to keep some of the property that they own so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy the property for many years to come. Perhaps the parents have seen how much their kids and grandkids enjoy the property.

However, when parents pass away and their property is left to children, property rules apply that may conflict with what the parents are trying to accomplish. Customizing the right legal program can ensure that one rogue descendant, or perhaps even the spouse of one child or grandchild, will not be able to mess up or destroy the family property that you'd want them all to enjoy.

First, let's look at some of the Louisiana laws that apply when multiple owners own real estate in Louisiana. Louisiana has a rule that states that no owner can be compelled to own property with another. When children inherit their parents' land, the children are considered "owners in indivision."

Anyone who owns an undivided interest in real estate in Louisiana, regardless of how big or small their ownership interest, can sell their ownership interest, or can force a "partition" of the property. The two kinds of partition are "partition in kind" and "partition by licitation."

When a piece of property is susceptible to being divided into lots, an owner can force a partition in kind whereby each owner would wind up with their own tract. Or, particularly if property is not susceptible to division into lots, an owner in indivision can force a sale of the property and the proceeds would be distributed to the co-owners in proportion to their ownership interest in the property.

Due to these rights that co-owners have, family property often gets sold eliminating future descedants from being able to enjoy the property.

Some owners of property think that by forming a limited liability company (LLC), the owners can keep the property in the family for generations. While owners of property should consider forming an LLC, and transferring their property to it, this is more of a "protection from lawsuits" vehicle than a "keep it in the family for generations" vehicle. Placing the property in an LLC and leaving membership interests in the LLC to your descendants won't prevent an owner/member from (1) selling or disposing of their LLC interest; (2) a member's creditor seizing their interest; or (3) giving or bequeathing their LLC membership interest to a non-family member.

These conversations about keeping property in the family for generations often turn toward creating a family trust. Parents would name a trustee or co-trustees (perhaps the "responsible" descendant") who will manage the trust assets for the benefit of all of the children and grandchildren. Backup trustees would need to be provided for since this trust may be in existence for many decades. Thanks to trust law, the descendants (trust beneficiaries) would not be permitted to sell, alienate, or mortgage, their interest in the trust, and the creditors of a beneficiary could not seize their interest in the trust.

Other issues to consider before pulling the trigger on something like this include the gift and estate tax, future Medicaid qualification, leaving funds to the trust to provide for ongoing management and expenses, and perhaps having the parents transfer the property (or their LLC which owns the property) to a revocable trust now (which trust would become irrevocable when the parents die) in order to avoid having the property go through a court-supervised probate proceeding when they pass away.

Every set of family circumstances is unique. You likely only have one "shot" to get it right. And the decisions that you make (or don't make) will affect your descendants for many, many years to come.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Leaving Assets To A Louisiana Special Needs Trust

Special Needs Trusts enable people, typically parents, to provide for another (typically, their child), without jeopardizing the government benefits that the special needs child is receiving.

There is typically a problem when parents bequeath assets to their special needs children. When the child inherits in his or her own name, the child could lose valuable government benefits that the child is receiving. In order to originally qualify for these benefits, the child had to be "means-tested." Often, the child must have and maintain no more than $2,000 in their name to receive these benefits. If the child receives an inheritance, the child may lose these valuable benefits.

So many parents leave assets for the special needs child in a third-party Special Needs Trust. When done properly, the trust can enhance and enrich the child's life while preserving the government benefits that are means-tested.

In general, there are certain provisions that should not be included in a trust that you leave behind for your special needs child.  The trust should not authorize the trustee to make broad distributions to or for the health, education, maintenance, or support of the child (known as the "HEMS" standard). 

In addition, the trust must not allow the child/beneficiary to compel distributions to himself or herself.

However, there are a number of permissible distributions to or for the benefit of the special needs child, including distributions for medical needs, travel, recreation, home improvements, auto expenses, and cleaning, to name a few.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Seven Common Uses For Trusts

People often mistakenly believe that trusts are for rich people. But you're about to find out that the trusts are used these days by all classes of people, and in some scenarios, trusts can benefit the middle class more than they can benefit the wealthy.

The following are seven common reasons people in Louisiana use trusts:

(1) Avoid Probate. Probably the most common reason nationwide why people use trusts. When you die with assets in your name, whether you have a last will or not, your assets are frozen. Your executor and your heirs will hire attorneys who will guide the family through the government-supervised probate (also called "Succession") process. Most people believe that this proceeding is too burdensome, costly, time-consuming, and just an overall pain in the behind. In some cases, it tears families apart. You can establish your revocable living trust and name trustees and beneficiaries of your trust, re-title assets into your trust while you are alive, so that when you die, your trustee disburses your trust assets to your beneficiaries, all outside of the government and legal system interference.

(2)  Avoid Nursing Home Poverty. The biggest threat to many people's life savings these days is not taxes or probate, but long term care expenses. With people living longer, if you own assets and need long term skilled care, you will be forced to pay for all of your own care out of your own savings until you have less than $2,000 remaining. If you work with the right people and set things up the right way, at the right time, and you get it right the first time, then you can protect your home and life savings from a forced spend-down in the event you need long term care in the future.

(3) Protect Irresponsible Heirs. Many people we work with want to leave an inheritance to their children or grandchildren, but they fear or they know that leaving a lump sum to certain individuals will enable them to squander the inheritance and spend it on the wrong things. You can establish a trust so that when you die, the inheritance for the financially immature heir can be doled out to him or her over time, or perhaps provide for a monthly stipend, or provide that someone else would have the discretion to determine when the heir is financially responsible enough to handle an inheritance. 

(4) Blended Family Situation. The biggest worry about blended families and estate planning is that when the first spouse dies, the worry is that all of the assets will go the surviving spouse. And then when the surviving spouse dies, all assets will go to the surviving spouse's children. The children of the first spouse to die won't get a penny. If you are a spouse in a blended family situation, you can establish a trust so that when you die, your assets are available for your spouse, but when your surviving spouse later dies, remaining trust assets go back to your children. This helps blended families protect assets for the right people.

(5)  Special Needs Trust. If you leave assets outright to someone who is getting government benefits, then the inheritance you leave them may get them kicked off of their benefits. By leaving the inheritance to what is commonly referred to as a "Special Needs Trust," you can arrange things in a way so that your heir continues to receive the valuable benefits, but also benefits from the inheritance that you left them the right way in a trust.

(6) Minors. Don't ever leave anything outright to a minor. When you leave life insurance or part of an estate to a minor, then that inheritance, while the child is a minor, must be directly supervised by a judge, and a judge must approve every expenditure of the inheritance on behalf of the minor, and then when the child turns 18, the remainder of the inheritance gets dumped in the child's lap. You can set up a trust so that you name a trusted friend or relative, or perhaps a company, to be the "Trustee" of a trust for the benefit of your minor child or grandchild. This will further make sure that what you leave to the minor is used for the right reasons outside of government interference, and is doled out the right way as the minor gradually turns into an adult.

(7) Avoid Taxes. Some people set up trusts to avoid taxes. The wealthy often establish trusts to move money from their "taxable estate" to an arrangement whereby assets are "out of the estate." It is important to note, however, that this estate tax affects only a small number of families. When an individual dies with an estate of less than $5.5 million, the estate is not required to file a federal estate tax return. Married couples can double the amount they can protect.

Divorced Business Owner Sets Up Estate Legal Program For Minor Children

I was working with a divorced business owner recently. His financial advisor recommended that he come see me. The business owner had been very successful in business, but he knew little and had no previous exposure to estate planning.

It was kind of funny when he said he wasn't sure what he needed from me, but he knew he needed to do something to protect his estate. I started a conversation by letting him know what would happen if he died with no legal plan in place.

I told him, "If you die with no legal program in place, then all of your assets will be frozen immediately. Your ex-wife will hire an attorney to start the probate proceeding. Your ex-wife will kick your fiancé out of your house. After several months or years of court proceedings, your ex-wife will start to gain control over all of your assets, including your businesses. Your business partners will have to co-own your businesses with your ex-wife. Your ex-wife will have the right to hire another set of business attorneys to search and review all of your business records. One of our local elected judges will be in charge of over-seeing how your ex-wife is handling everything on behalf of your four minor children. Ultimately, if the court proceedings ever end, your ex-wife will gain complete control over your estate. If she does not pay the $1.5 million estate tax bill within nine months after you die, interest and penalties will accrue against your estate. Then, as your children reach their 18th birthday, they will sue your ex-wife who will be forced to dump roughly $2 million into your childrens' laps, likely spoiling any desire they may have to get a good college education."

He said, "That would not be good for my four kids, my fiancé, my business partners, or my ex-wife. I don't think my ex-wife would be the best person to handle my children's inheritance." 

About an hour later, after much discussion about his family, he was anxious to put in place an estate legal program so that, when he dies, the right people will be put in charge of managing his estate. Probate will be avoided so the courts and judges and lawyers would be kept out of his estate. He designated a trusted and responsible colleague to handle the trusts for his four children so nothing would be dumped into their laps at age 18. His children would have money available to them for their college education, and they would receive their inheritance in stages at later ages. Plus, we set up the trusts for his four kids so that if they get married and divorced, they will not have to split the inheritance with their spouse.

We also had a discussion about the estate and gift tax. He was surprised to learn that if he stayed single, then only $5.45 million of his estate would escape the 40% estate tax. But if he gets married, then through the appropriate use of the marital deduction and portability, he could protect $10.9 million from the 40% estate tax.

Bottom Line: If you are divorced with children, and you don't want your ex-spouse to control everything when you die, and if you'd prefer that what you've worked for doesn't get dumped into your kids' laps at age 18 (after being overseen by judge until then), then perhaps you should give us a call at 866-491-3884 so we can start a conversation so that you can sleep well at night knowing all of your estate legal affairs are in order.

 

6 Critical Estate Planning Concepts: How To Make Your Child's Inheritance Divorce-Proof

I was working with a couple from St. Tammany Parish. They had only one child. It appeared to this couple that their child would likely get married in the next few months or years. The couple was not particularly fond of their potential daughter-in-law, but like they told me, "We don't get to select who our son marries!"

The couple had worked very hard to save up their estate. They wanted to pass it along to their son - AND THEIR SON ONLY. They feared leaving their estate to their son one day in the future, and then the daughter-in-law divorces the son and takes half of the inheritance along with her. They owned a home and another piece of property. They owned publicly traded stock, and they owned a considerable amount of cash, in the form of checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit.

Here are a few things you should know if you want to keep your children's inheritance in the family and avoid losing it to your children's past, present, and future divorces.

  1. Inheritance is Separate Property. At the moment that a child (or anyone) inherits, that inheritance is the separate property of the person inheriting. So, if parents leave Son $1 million, then that $1 million initially is the separate property of Son's - not community property of Son and Daughter-in-Law.
  2. Income From Separate Property. Income produced by the separate property of a spouse is community property. So, if that $1 million that Son inherited produces $200,000 of income (interest and dividends) over a several year period, then that income that Son's separate property produced is community property owned by both Son and Daughter-in-Law.
  3. Commingling of Community and Separate Property. If community property and separate property get mixed up together so that you can't distinguish the separate property from the community property, then it all becomes community due to our presumption that anything a married couple has is community property.
  4. Declaration of Paraphernality. Son may sign a particular type of Declaration reserving that the fruits and revenues (income) of his separate property IS his separate property. Assuming he executes this document timely and accurately, then the $200,000 of income that his inheritance produced (See #2, above) would be his separate property. There would be no commingling of inheritance and income from inheritance, so the separate property status of all of it would be preserved.
  5. Leaving an Inheritance To Your Ex-Inlaw. Let's say your son is divorced from the mother of your son's three minor children. Your son predeceases you. It is likely that the inheritance that your son would have received would go to your son's children (your grandchildren). But guess who controls it? Yep, you've just put all of your hard earned wealth into the hands of your deceased son's ex-wife, because the courts will put her in charge of your minor grandchildren's inheritance, causing you to "roll over in your grave." Proper estate planning, done right the first time, with the right estate planning attorney, can avoid these problems.
  6. Leave It To "The Son Trust." For parents who want their children to have an extra layer of protection, they will set up their estate planning legal program in a manner that when the parents die, the child's inheritance will be placed into a trust for the child. Done correctly, this may prevent the child from being "influenced" by the child's spouse to do something inappropriate with the inheritance, and it may even provide that when the child later dies, any remaining inheritance in the child's trust will pass along to the child's children - and not the child's spouse or ex-spouse.