Questions That Come Up During Jury Duty
Author: Drew Osborne CFP®
I served on jury duty for the first time last May. People in the past have told me court is nothing like what is portrayed on television. In reality, it’s boring, mundane, drawn out, and not filled with exciting plot twists. So I went into the event with low expectations. But the entire process blew my expectations out of the water. Jury selection process was insightful watching lawyers ask questions to weed out potential people who would not be impartial to the case. The trial itself made me proud of the United States judicial process, and the jury deliberations were taken seriously by all the jurors. I highly recommend fully participating in the process if and when you’re asked to serve.
While the 13 jurors had dinner before deliberations, one of the jurors learned about my vocation as a wealth manager. She then asked an interesting question. She inquired, “How much money is enough money to start a living trust?”
The simple answer is there is no minimum to how much money is enough to have a living trust.
Living trusts provide several advantages:
- Property left through a living trust does not go through probate court. Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing one’s property (and paying debts) to the people who inherit it. The probate process is often slow and can be costly with lawyer and court fees.
- A living trust also lets the client clarify their wishes through the trust and in a private way as opposed to probate (a public process and one where a person other than the client will decide who inherits the owner’s property).
- A living trust crafted along with a durable power of attorney can protect a client’s assets if he or she becomes ill or incapacitated. The successor trustee can manage the client’s affairs without court intervention.
- Living trusts can be changed as a client’s wishes change over time. A living (revocable) trust can be tweaked. They don’t have to be set in stone at the trust’s origin. Also, in case of illness or incapacitation, the client can dispute the incapacity to retain control themselves.
Living trusts have a cost:
- Living trusts should be carefully crafted documents and often require a lawyer’s help. Since a lawyer-drafted trust can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars into the thousand’s, it is worth having a conversation with a trusted attorney or advisor to see if you should consider a living trust.
- Titling assets into the trust becomes important, because a trust can only follow the wishes of assets titled in the trusts. This could include bank accounts, investment accounts, or assets like vehicles or houses. It takes time and energy to make sure all the correct accounts are titled correctly. But it may make sense to not title some assets in the trust (as mentioned below).
Living trusts are not necessary for all accounts or all people:
- A living trust is not necessarily needed for some types of property to avoid probate. Retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds have named beneficiaries (primary and contingent).
- Other accounts (like bank accounts) can have pay-on-death designations or be titled in joint tenancy with right of survivorship with a spouse or partner. These designations avoid probate.
- For some folks with very few assets or specific wishes with those assets, a trust may not be worth the cost if a pay-on-death or retirement account designation may serve their wishes without the added cost.
There are lots of considerations of whether to have a living trust. These are the type of conversations I love having with our Windward clients. Comprehensive wealth management is our service, because finance is more than investments. It is wealth protection, wealth enhancement, and wealth transfer as well.
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