Successions are the method in which the assets of the deceased are passed to the living. Many people think successions are complicated and expensive, and for that reason, they seek ways to avoid a succession. Many law offices began offering trusts as an alternative; if the client puts all of his assets in a trust, then upon his death there is no need for a succession, and the trust will continue to manage the assets.
Unfortunately, this succession-dodging technique presents its own set of problems, and can often be more expensive than a succession proceeding. Many law firms and trust companies charge huge sums of money to set up a trust, and the result is a stack of complex papers that most clients do not understand. With no idea what the trust does, clients just hope that the fee they paid ensures that they have been taken care of.
At Bethard & Bethard, we want every client to to fully understand their legal decisions and documents, so we personally ensure that everyone leaves our office with a full understanding of their decisions and steps moving forward.
In regards to trusts, we get phone calls from folks in a couple of situations:
1) They need help interpreting the trust documents they have already signed, and the firm who prepared them are unavailable to respond or assist
2) Someone has died, and the firm who prepared the trust either will not help with the next steps, or charges an exorbitant amount to help with the next steps.
In either situation, the client has fallen victim to a firm that charged them large sums of money, and seemed to become unavailable when the client needed them the most; and to add insult to injury, many families end up still needing a succession for one reason or another after the death of their loved one.
On many occasions, we’ve been enlisted to dissolve the established trust and revert everything back to the way it was before the trust, because the trust caused more problems than it solved.
Successions have evolved into an easier, faster, and more affordable option than in previous years, and many successions can be completed without the additional cost of having to be administered by an attorney. What does that mean? If all heirs are present and agree to the distributions, then the succession can be opened and closed at the same time, and once the documents are signed, it can be completed in about a week.
Estate planning is never “one size fits all” – each person and estate deserves a customized plan that is right for all those involved.
Have questions about the best options for your estate or the succession of a loved one? Call us! We’re happy to help.