We often get clients who say, “I’d like to set up a Trust.” Yet, what type of trust you want to set up will depend on your situation.
One big advantage of most Trusts is they can help your heirs avoid probate court and, in many instances, can help keep your affairs private. Many trusts are not part of the probate court system and never become a matter of public record.
5 Common Types of Trusts in Missouri are:
- Testamentary Trusts. Testamentary Trusts have no power or effect until the Will of the deceased is probated. Although a testamentary trust will not avoid the need for probate and will become a public document as part of your Will, it can be useful in accomplishing many estate planning goals. The most common use we see of these are where individuals want an inexpensive estate plan with provisions for minor children.
- Revocable Trusts. Revocable Trusts are often referred to as “Living Trusts” because they are created while you are alive. Revocable Trusts are the most popular type of Trust. With a revocable trust, the person establishing the trust (this person is known as the grantor, trustor, or trustmaker) maintains complete control over the trust and may amend, revoke or terminate the trust at any time. Revocable trusts are generally used for asset management, probate avoidance, and some tax planning.
- Protection Trusts. Sometimes called a Medicaid Asset Protection or MAP Trust. Protection Trusts are crafted for a specific purpose, to protect the property inside (often a home, real estate, or farm land) from creditors and/or nursing homes. Because of its ability to protect real estate and other assets, Protection Trusts are becoming more and more popular, especially for individuals who do not have long-term care insurance.
- Supplemental Needs Trusts. Supplemental Needs Trusts are often called Special Needs Trust. They enable the donor to provide for the continuing care of a disabled spouse, child, relative or friend while allowing the beneficiary to also receive public benefits.
- Pet Trusts. More and more, clients are telling me they want a plan that ensure their pets will be well taken care of following their death. The Uniform Trust Code contains specific provisions allowing trusts to care for your pets after your death.
Example. Kirk and Lisa wanted to make their estate settlement simple for each other and for their three children. Knowing that assets in a revocable trust avoid probate, they created a trust and transferred their stock, home, LLCs into their trust. Kirk and Lisa “heard” that life insurance avoid probate because it’s paid to the beneficiary. Kirk died. The insurance company immediately tells Lisa that the insurance company needs a probate court order. Why?
Many years ago, insurance agents would sell life insurance to a married couple. Because the insurance agent believed there would be some estate tax savings, the insurance agent wrote the insurance applications in a way that the husband would “own” the life insurance policy on the life of the wife, and the wife would “own” the policy on the life of the husband.
So, when Kirk died, it was determined that Kirk “owned” the policy on Lisa’s life. When Lisa dies, the death benefit will be payable to Kirk (or Kirk’s estate). In either case, Kirk’s probate is necessary to collect the death benefit when Lisa dies. In addition, if the policy that Kirk owns has cash value, Lisa will not be able to access this cash value into the policy ownership gets transferred in a court proceeding.
Had they transferred their life insurance policy to their trust during Kirk’s lifetime, the probate would not have been necessary. After Kirk died, Lisa, as the sole trustee, would be able to access cash value or change the beneficiary. But since they “assumed” that life insurance avoided probate, they ended up being required to complete Kirk’s probate to “fix” the life insurance problem, even though all of their remaining assets avoided probate.
Often I have clients schedule an initial consultation to discuss having a Last Will and Testament drafted for them. While I am happy to do this for clients, upon further discussion, most clients realize that what they actually want is something different than a Will.
A Will is great for nominating guardians for minor children. Having a Will is also far better than passing away intestate (that is, without a Will) where default Missouri law controls the management and distribution of your estate rather than it being distributed according to your desires.
Yet, a Will often leads to Probate Court. This is the very thing that most of my clients want to avoid. After all, probate court (1) costs money, (2) consumes your loved one’s time, (3) leaves some decisions up to the local probate judge, and (4) is a matter of public record.
A much better plan is to avoid probate. And in most situations, in Missouri, avoiding probate is not that difficult to do. Clients can avoid probate by using all or some combination of the following:
1. a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) agreement,
2. a Beneficiary Deed for Missouri real estate,
3. a Gift Deed for personal property,
4. Payable on Death provisions for bank accounts,
5. Transfer on Death provisions for vehicles and boats, and
6. Beneficiary Designations for retirement and financial accounts.
Might it cost a little bit of money now to avoid probate later? Probably. Yet, avoiding planning now is being penny wise and pound foolish. One great thing about estate planning is the peace of mind it brings to my clients, that their affairs are in order and their wishes will be carried out.