Listen to local radio and you will hear commercial after commercial about the importance of having a trust to “protect your money from the nursing home.” If only it was that simple!
Estate planning to “protect your money” is such a complicated subject that many, many, many people just decide to not think about it.
Which is a shame! Sometimes things that would be so easy to do when an individual is alive and well become impossible after they become incapacitated or pass away.
One very common example – updating beneficiaries on an Individual Retirement account or a life insurance policy. Almost everyone in the financial industry has heard multiple truly sad stories about large amounts of money going to someone a person was no longer remotely close to because the account owner never took the time – maybe 5 minutes to an hour – to update their beneficiaries.
The “nursing home” question is substantially more complicated. Do you need a trust? Maybe. Maybe not. The answer to that question and every single estate planning question is, “It depends.” What does it depend on? Your individual, 100% unique situation.
If you Google “Pros and Cons of Having a Trust,” it’s easy to get some basic information. Trusts do offer legal benefits and protections. That is absolutely true.
But it takes time, planning and money to put a trust together. It’s not “press & play.” (There are also many sad stories about people who took the time to set up a trust and then never re-deeded the assets – like their house – to the trust. They believed just having the trust was a “magic wand.” It’s not! So much for protecting the house from the nursing home.)
What if you or a loved one need specialized care and you actually want to spend your money on the best care for you? The radio commercials never talk about that. What if you’re concerned about having the time and energy in the future to manage a possibly-complicated estate plan? Another good question.
Estate planning that will actually help you and your loved ones is basically all about coming up with currently-reasonable answers to a series of “What if …” questions that will have various – and sometimes permanently legally-binding – consequences.
Estate planning is NOT a do-it-yourself proposition. Rules, laws and tax considerations matter – and they can vary from state to state, sometimes quite significantly. (Speaking of Google-searching, a quick search on “Problems with DIY wills” is very sobering.)
Plus, there are so many monkey wrenches. A couple in their 70s did all their estate planning knowing their only child – a trusted and responsible 45-year-old – would be their point person. Unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly, before his parents. What now?
Those are just a few of the reasons why you really want to work with local estate planning professional/s who you trust, people you are glad to have on your team because they can: 1) Answer your questions, 2) Objectively suggest appropriate-for-you options, 3) And help you protect your money in various ways especially when it comes to dealing with life’s large and small monkey wrenches as they inevitably come along.
How do you find someone like that? Ask around. Look for someone who is a genuinely-impartial advisor with multiple ways to help you achieve your objectives – not someone who is basically selling a single solution. Come up with a list of your current questions and concerns and schedule free initial consultation/s to see if there’s a fit. It will take some time but it is time very well spent.
Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office in Canton. Have a question? Email to email@example.com.