To Trust or Not to Trust, That is the Question…
Judges are sheltered creatures. Fed only what the lawyers bring to them in the Courtroom. When I retired as a Judge in 2010 and started a law practice, one of the things I noticed had changed since I became a Judge in 1989, was how different the plat books looked.
Instead of a farm being owned by the eldest generation, I saw plat maps sprinkled with the names of family trusts. Evidently, a lot of my neighbors were taking advantages of holding family farms in trusts. And then I remembered and began to experience in my practice some of the difficulties encountered when trusts don’t work.
Trusts, and there are many kinds, are tools. When a family considers using a trust to plan for their lives, it is important to use the right tool for your situation. If you don’t, there can be real trouble.
Have you ever heard of a neighbor who went to a hotel to listen to a presentation on family trusts? This process sometimes results in the family’s square peg being fit into the round hole of a form trust. The fit is often not a good one.
These mass trust makers, called “trust mills” in the legal community, sometimes leave you with a document that you do not understand and therefore do not correctly handle. And an incorrectly handled trust is worse than no trust at all.
It is my philosophy that a trust, or any other legal tool, should be fashioned to meet a client’s individual needs. Only when the tool fits the job can we accomplish the true end of wise planning: peace.
Yes, peace. The right planning tools may avoid taxes, probate and future uncertainties, but the real goal is peace; peace of mind and peace as our hard earned property is passed between generations.
If you are considering a trust for your family, or have one that you have questions about, sit down and spend a few minutes with an attorney you can trust with your trust.
Thomas D. White