Contributed by Maggie Geren.
When you met with an attorney a few weeks ago, perhaps all you expected was a simple will. Maybe you thought that, with your situation, the work should be easy and the documents should be few. But now that you have finished working with the attorney, your parting gift is a large binder filled with hundreds of pages. You may be wondering, “Why is my trust so long?”.
Creating a comprehensive plan for your future involves numerous different and critical elements. Working with a lawyer to create an estate plan, with its various documents, provisions, and pages, is comparable to hiring a plumber to fix a complicated problem. To provide the best possible service for the customer, the plumber will bring a tool kit filled with various tools to the customer’s home because the plumber probably will not immediately know what exactly they will need to do to fix the problem. In this case, your lawyer is the plumber, and your estate planning documents are the tools in the kit.
The tools in your kit come in several forms that impact the length and depth of your documents. To best serve you, they must accomplish four things:
They must accurately reflect your desires. One of the key reasons your trust document is so long is because it memorializes your wishes with careful precision. Suppose you are unable to make financial decisions regarding yourself or the money and property in your trust because of illness or death. In that case, the words crafted together in this powerful legal document will be your only opportunity to express your priorities for giving the money and property in the trust to the people you love and care about. Failure to consider the proper language and accurately articulate what you have communicated to your attorney can cause results that do not align with your values and wishes.
They must be enforceable in court. Another reason your trust documents are so long is that they must be comprehensive enough to achieve one of the main objectives of a trust: avoiding the probate process. Your trust document ultimately communicates legal rights, obligations, and responsibilities without involving the court. As a result, your attorneys must make sure that they are covering a variety of legal situations that could arise in your future. Though these documents will not be used in probate, they will be used in a legal capacity to communicate to entities such as banks and other financial institutions, medical providers, title companies, and even the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies.
They must address unanticipated and unpredicted needs. Your trust is a comprehensive document created to anticipate both foreseeable and unforeseeable events. Our practice is to help you think about what you would want to see in multiple scenarios. The trust instructions walk you through potential life situations. For example, sections of the trust are dedicated to what would happen if you were to lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. In other areas, your trust not only names a trustee who will take charge of your trust if you were to pass away but also allows you to identify whom you want as a backup, or successor, trustee. This scenario is just one example of many describing how your comprehensive trust plan helps you successfully prepare for unexpected events.
They must communicate a unified meaning to the readers. It is vital to ensure that all the people involved in reviewing and carrying out your wishes have the same interpretation of what you have said. We, as people, interpret ideas based on our subconscious beliefs and personal experiences. This truth means that your lawyers must write this document with clear instructions so that all the different parts of your estate plan can flow together.
We Can Help
If you are reviewing your estate plan and are unsure how comprehensive it is, call our office to schedule a meeting. Our experienced estate planning attorneys will help you create a well-rounded trust that protects you and your loved ones.