Living Trust Planning (also called “estate planning”) is much like getting married in Los Angeles. There are ten things you should know about a living trust before you engage an estate planning attorney in Los Angeles County.
- You should find an estate planning or living attorney who is local. Having a local attorney means you can easily make an appointment to see your lawyer for a trust amendment, anytime there is any change in your life.
- The process of engaging a trust lawyer should be like getting engaged to a person. You should take your time in getting to know the attorney who will prepare your trust. Call, email and meet. Be sure all of your questions about the trust are answered timely.
- Make an appointment, and the another appointment. This is the lost art of dating and also in client engagement! Just like dating, you should go meet your lawyer, and ask lots of questions. Lots of good conversation comes out of client meetings. The good attorney you hire to prepare your trust should be like a therapist, a person you trust with your family troubles and fears. You should be able to talk to him or her about your family’s most difficult situations. This is especially true when you have certain concerns about your family that play into the creation of a trust. For example, disabilities, drug addictions, divorces, bad relationships, business relationships and family businesses all play an important role in the decisions the trust and estate attorney helps you make.
- Have a list of your assets in hand when you meet with the attorney. It is important that you talk about asset types when you go to a living trust law firm. We are very particular about making sure every possible asset is added to your trust. There are of course certain assets that do not go in a trust, such as IRAs and 401ks. Make sure those have appropriate beneficiary designations.
- Review the draft of the trust with your lawyer at a personal appointment. Go though the disposition, revocation and trustee provisions very thoroughly. These are hot spots for your wishes in a trust. Make sure you look to see if the trust is revocable or partly irrevocable at first death.
- Don’t get forced into signing a trust when anyone, whether a child, or caregiver tells you what should be put in it. What should be put in a trust should come ONLY from your wishes. Don’t let anyone tell you who should inherit from you.
- Make sure that your lawyer will be able to make changes to your trust, if you change your mind. Sometimes, we leave the trust lawyer’s office and later change our mind about the disposition or distribution portion of the trust. Don’t be shy and call the lawyer.
- Go through the benefits of the trust. Ask if you can change the trust in the future.
- Most importantly, you should know exactly what happens to your living trust, if you become incapacitated. Who will access your assets? Who will benefit from your trust when you can no longer make decisions for your self. Ask, how does this link to your power of attorney and to health care privacy laws.
- Each trust should have a provision on how it is determined that you are incapacitated. You decide the standard. Sometimes, there are two doctors who must find you incapable of managing your trust, and other times, the standard is only one doctor. Check this paragraph before you leave the lawyer’s office.
Mina Sirkin and Evan Sirkin are living trust attorneys in Los Angeles County who have helped thousands of families create trusts that protect their families. Call Evan Sirkin at 818.340.4479 for a free living trust consultation.