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Why do I need an attorney to draft my trust?

Trusts are designed to survive you. They are drafted before they are needed. For this very reason, you cannot draft a trust based solely on the “here and now.”

Beneficiaries (those you want to leave money to) get married, get divorced, re-marry, have step-children, etc. Some may develop an alcohol or substance abuse addiction, or make bad business decisions and be on the verge of bankruptcy.

You want your Trust to be flexible enough to account for all these uncertainties. But you don’t want it to be so flexible that someone with ill-will can distort its meaning and take all the money for himself.

The good news is that most uncertainties can be accounted for with a properly drafted Trust. You can go to a form website and answer a few questions and receive a “cookie-cutter” Trust. A good estate planning attorney earns his fee not by asking those simple run-of-the-mill questions from the form website, but in knowing what follow-up questions to ask to the answer that you just gave. For example, instead of simply asking whether you want to leave your spouse’s share of your estate in a trust, he will explain what a trust will accomplish and why usufruct may be a better idea than a trust. (one particularly popular “fill in the form” website, that starts with “legal” and ends with “zoom”, did not even mention usufruct, even after I filled in Louisiana as my state of residency).

The Trustee (the person in charge of managing and distributing the money) can be given guidance, which can range from a rigid set of rules to general guidelines to follow. Everyone has their own way of explaining what they want. By hiring an attorney, you can explain in your own words exactly what you want, and the attorney can transform your wishes into a legally binding Trust with all the correct legal terms.

A good trust is one that is designed to account for the uncertainties in life. That is why it is important to hire a knowledgeable attorney who can walk you through the “what if’s” that are inherent in trusts.

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