One of the primary reasons for planning your estate is to make sure that your assets go where you want them to after you’ve passed away. If you’re a parent, it’s likely that you’ll want to use your estate plan to make sure your children and their children are provided for. Often, the plan is to divide the estate equally between the children.
One caution we always offer to our clients is that planning based only on your current circumstances is likely to be short-sighted. For this reason, we typically recommend against a Will or Trust that gives particular financial accounts or parcels of real estate to one child or the other. Things change – almost certainly – and these assets will not be of the same value at your death as they are now. So, since none of us has a crystal ball as what the future will hold, we leave instructions for our Executors or Trustees to divide these assets based upon the value at the time of our deaths.
But what about assets we don’t want to divide? For example, let’s consider the family vacation home. All of your children have wonderful memories of time spent at the beach or mountain house. These well cared for properties have increased in value over the years, are the place of a lot of family memories, and it makes sense for the family to continue to hold this property for generations. However, with each generation, the family is larger and more spread out. Will it always make sense to hold the property in the family? As the generations come and go, how does the family manage the use of and care for these properties?
A Trust specifically designed for this legacy real estate makes the most sense. It can define who has the right to use the home and what costs they are responsible for, who handles the maintenance of the property, who gets to use the home at major holidays, who pays the taxes ad other bills, whether and under what circumstances the property can be leased to third parties, under what circumstances the property would be sold, might give family members the first opportunity to buy the property if sold, and determines how the proceeds of any sale are distributed.
When you are planning for your estate, it is important to remember that circumstances rarely stay the same over long periods of time. A plan that makes sense for your children and their children may well be obsolete by the time your grandchildren have families of their own. This is why it’s important to ensure that you build flexibility into a Legacy Real Estate Trust. Even without a crystal ball, the experienced trust attorneys at Walker Lambe Rhudy Costley & Gill, PLLC can help you define a plan that is wise enough and flexible enough to deal with these changes – a plan that right for your family.