Archeologists have long been aware of the Viking “+ULFBERH+T” swords. Recently, after conducting a metallurgical analysis of thousands of swords, a surprising fact was uncovered. European swords of that era were of poor quality steel that on the whole was very brittle and full of impurities. However, the rare “+ULFBERH+T” swords were made of high quality steel. Whoever made the swords possessed important secrets in the art of making steel unknown in the rest of Europe at the time. Other swords with similar branding but with differences in spelling were make of the poor quality steel. In other words, there were contemporary fakes and imitations of this legendary sword.
As with anything made, all trusts are not the same. Each family is unique, and has unique goals and desires for their beneficiaries. Our goal in every estate plan we create is to make those goals a reality. Here are five key questions to ask yourself about your existing trust.
Who Created It?
Did you work with an attorney who specializes in estate planning, or someone who does a little bit of everything? There are a number of scams out there with people trying to sell a financial product and throw in an “attorney” prepared trust as an incentive, or sell you on the idea that you need to buy their financial product to make your trust work. Don’t fall for those gimmicks, work with a reputable local attorney.
What Is In It?
You should know exactly what is in your trust and what is not. Typically a trust has a “schedule” of assets at the end detailing what should be in the trust. However, that is only the first step. The second, more important step is actually changing the title on your assets to the trust. Not changing title to an asset leaves it exposed to probate, and possibly outside your carefully created estate plan.
When Was It Made?
Some things improve with age, but not everything. We all know laws change, but unless your attorney has a program in place to keep you up to date, your documents could be based on old law. For instance, many older plans have a document called an “Power of Attorney – Health Care” which is no longer valid.
Where Do You Keep It?
I worked with a client once who could not find the estate plan they had completed years earlier! They had all their assets titled in a trust, but neither they nor anyone else could find it. After we created replacement documents for them, we recommended that they get a fire safe box in which to keep their important documents. Letting the person who will be in charge after you’re gone know where to find the documents, or even giving them a copy of the documents is also a good idea.
Has Anything Changed?
Your unique “why” things are in your estate plan can change over time. Those assumptions about life and your family form the foundation of your estate plan. If those fundamentals have changed in your life, it’s time to check in with your estate planner.
There you have it, the who, what, when, where and why of your living trust.