Wills and estate plans are generally designed to ensure that a person’s wishes are carried out once they’re gone. But what happens if your wishes are a little bit off the beaten path? From supporting a special needs child, to caring for a pet, benefitting a specific cause or avoiding family conflict, such situations abound.
Luckily, there are also plenty of tools and tactics — like the ones below — that can help work these less traditional needs into an estate plan.
Trusts can be created for many different purposes. Some of the most common relate to leaving money to heirs who may not be ready or able to manage their inheritance. For instance, special needs trusts are often written to provide ongoing financial support for an individual or child who has special needs.
Legal counsel is an important resource for navigating the various considerations in establishing a trust, such as avoiding a structure that could compromise governmental benefits the beneficiary may be eligible to receive.
Adding clarity to your wishes
Sometimes, a person may have wishes that they don’t want included in the will itself, or they may want to add details or clarity to information in the will. In these cases, a letter of intent written in partnership with your legal counsel may be useful. For instance, someone could detail their funeral preferences, list their financial and digital account information, or direct personal items that have more sentimental than monetary value.
Using corporate trustees versus individual trustees
Naming a loved one as an executor may seem like an honor. But the role comes with a lot of responsibility, and individual appointees might see it as a burden. This person may need to file reports with the courthouse and the IRS, or identify, valuate and report on assets, and manage them as the will directs.
That could mean anything from selling a home to retitling financial assets or dealing with oil and gas interests, for instance. In one case, we worked with a local humane society to follow-through on a client’s wish to leave a large sum of money to care for a group of feral cats.
A corporate trustee is an alternative to naming an individual. A corporate trustee can be a neutral authority who can work to manage conflict if a family member does not want to follow the wishes outlined by the will. And using a professional can also free up other people for tasks they’re better suited to manage. For instance, with one family, the heirs had medical needs. So, while we acted as trustee and assisted with the estate, others could step in to manage medical appointments and tasks of daily living.
Planning and discussing
As part of the estate planning process, it’s important to discuss the plan with the people or organizations that are intended to benefit. This is especially true when there are unusual bequests, complex financial situations or large monetary gifts.
For instance, one client left money to a favorite art museum to add a structure and left a building to convert to a nonprofit art center. Unfortunately, the client didn’t discuss their wishes with the beneficiary, who was unable to fulfill those wishes. Luckily, they were able to come up with a plan that accomplished the intent of the will, but it doesn’t always work that way.
Creating your plan
There are a multitude of options and considerations when structuring wills and estate plans. The important things here are to really think about your intent and to find legal advisors who can help you put that intent into words and directions that your executor can follow.
The professionals at Hancock Whitney can help you develop your vision, find the appropriate tools and solutions, and work with other professionals — including your tax advisor and estate attorney — to ensure your wishes really are carried out when you’re gone.
The information, views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author(s), presenter(s), and/or presented in the article are those of the author or individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Hancock Whitney Bank. Hancock Whitney makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.
This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Hancock Whitney Bank encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.
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