Trusts may be well suited to planned giving

Is estate planning only for individuals with children or immediate family members? An attorney that focuses on wills and trusts would most surely answer with a resounding no.

Indeed, a recent article described a whole area of estate planning that doesn’t involve one’s own children: charitable giving. Even for individuals with families, the concept of creating a legacy or doing something philanthropic has become an increasingly important consideration.

One commentator characterizes the focus on planned giving, often through a trust, as a generational shift. The commentator believes that smaller families and couples with no children may be examples of the social dynamic that is driving the trend.

A popular legal instrument for making a charitable gift is a trust. Under this approach, a trustee can be designated to hold and control financial or other assets on behalf of the beneficiaries named in the trust. The beauty of this approach is that the individual creating the trust has great flexibility in determining the purpose of the trust, as well as what restrictions it might have.

Of course, an attorney might caution that trustees should be selected carefully. The trustee’s responsibilities are significant: He or she must manage the trust assets, which may include making investment decisions and distributing assets.

An attorney can work with individuals to accomplish the goals of planned giving. An attorney can even help oversee funding of the trust, or assist with other trust administration details. To make sure that charitable wishes are carried out, an individual may need to consult with an attorney.

Source: The New York Times, “In Estate Planning, Family Isn’t Always First,” Caitlin Kelly, May 2, 2014


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