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Trusts: Creative and flexible estate planning tools

A couple with a relatively sizable real estate, savings and business portfolio recently posed a question regarding estate planning that they sought to have answered in a newspaper's money-related forum. Their question was logical and their concern quite common, and we pass along the details to our readers in Texas and elsewhere, hoping that they find the subject matter relevant and the advice instructive.

The couple's concern was with the assets they sought to pass along equally to their two adult children. They cited stress over the half that would be inherited by their son, given his unstable marriage and his spouse's proven track record of bad money management.

"We want to be sure to protect his part of the inheritance," they wrote. "What should we do?"

We believe the advice given was sound and even valuable for the spotlight it shed on what is an extremely useful and sometimes underutilized estate planning tool.

That is a trust. More specifically, it is a host of trusts that can be set up singly or in concert to promote many different planning goals. As many people discover, a tailored and carefully drafted trust turns out to be the perfect vehicle to achieve specific aims focused on asset preservation and transfer.

In the case of the couple worried about their adult son, it was duly pointed out that a properly written trust would prevent trust assets from being claimed by outside parties, including a spouse not named as a beneficiary.

The key of course is close input from a proven estate planning attorney commanding deep experience in working with trusts of all sorts. That attorney can answer questions, point out what types of trusts might or might not be relevant to a particular situation, and draft legal instruments that are accurate and fully promote their intended goals.

Source: The New Jersey Star-Ledger, "Your Money: protecting adult child's inheritance from ugly divorce fight and poor money decisions," Karin Price Mueller, May 12, 2014

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