Living trusts: A guide to the perplexed
I just wrote a sizable check to a lawyer who specializes in estate planning to prepare a living trust for my wife and me. We're at an age when wills, durable power of attorney and health-care directives make sense. We chose a living trust to save...
I just wrote a sizable check to a lawyer who specializes in estate planning to prepare a living trust for my wife and me. We're at an age when wills, durable power of attorney and health-care directives make sense. We chose a living trust to save our children from the hassle and cost of probate, not to mention having to guess our wishes for end-of-life and after-death.
The process would have taken much less time if we had done our homework. Fortunately, we had the world's most patient attorney preparing the revocable trust, and he agreed to prepare all the documents for a set fee.
There are do-it-yourself legal projects, but I realized after the trust was prepared that I couldn't have known that subtleties in naming heirs would have cost our immediate heirs money and possibly grief and dissension. By including specifics about what we wanted after we passed away, we spared our children those decisions, too.
Still, it would have worth our time to have had Living Trust Builder, a CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh computers. It has a wealth of information and sample forms for everything from wills and durable power of attorney to a template for listing assets. There's even a form for revoking your trust.
Previewing the forms would have prepared us for the massive binder our attorney presented to us. Understanding the significance of each component of a living trust is important. The last thing we wanted was to confuse to our kids and misrepresent our wishes.
But the most helpful part of Living Trust Builder is a 177-page pdf file that explains, in terms we could understand, the reasons for preparing a living trust and how the different components all work together. Reader allows you to call up the 177-page file, and you can print out sections or the entire document. Most PCs have the free program Acrobat Reader (it can be downloaded at www.adobe.com ).
This CD was prepared several years ago, which is one more reason to consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning. Many of the forms can only be opened with older versions of Microsoft Word. However, there's a freeware word processing program included on the disc that will open all the files.
Installation is straightforward, although I wish it had included a desktop shortcut; finding the program on my hard disc took a bit of searching after it was installed. While the authors of the CD say that it's designed for small businesses, most of the forms are for single individuals and couples.
Living Trust Builder works on Windows Vista, XP, Me, 2000, 98 and 95 and Macs running Systems X, 9 and 8. To order, send $19, plus $6 for shipping, to WashingtonCD, PO Box 351531, Los Angeles, CA 90035, or online at www.washingtoncd.net .)