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October 09, 2009

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I don't see any mention of a Living Trust, this is particularly essential for a married couple.

I'd include in the letter of instruction information about pets and children. If someone else is raising your children, what do they need to know? Bed time, likes and dislikes, allergies, medical history, doctor, philosophies for the future such as paying for college or how you want them to be raised would be helpful to someone raising your kids.

I disagree that a living trust is "particularly essential" for a married couple. Whether or not a trust makes sense depends upon their tax situation, size of their estate, the State of residence, whether they own property out of state and family situation. Only a GOOD lawyer can make that determination. Too many people end up with attorneys who are essentially trust mills. They do nothing but create these trusts that are completely inappropriate (and sometimes they cause more problems that have to be undone) for the client. Trusts generally cost more money and time to establish and maintain. They are subject to many of the exact same administration issues that tie up an estate (final income and fiduciary taxes). They can be more efficient than a probate if done and maintained correctly, but the costs might outweigh the benefits for many people. You need to talk to your attorney about your personal situation before making the determination that a trust is right for you. And, if a trust is ALL your attorney talks about . . . walk away. Your attorney owes you a responsibility to discuss both a will and a trust (you'll need a will even if you have a trust as a safety net) and to help guide you to a decision between them based upon your personal situation.

Jennifer:
In my case, living in California, owning multiple real estate, and a very large investment portfolio, a living trust makes a huge difference in being able to avoid or minimize inheritance taxes. Without it, when the first spouse dies everything passes to the surviving spouse OK, but the inheritance tax exclusion for the deceased spouse is lost. I have used a very experienced and knowlegeable attorney to draw up our documents, certainly not one of the 'trust mill' attorneys that advertise in the newspaper all the time.

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