Another benefit of having a living trust rather than a will alone: checks and balances.
My last entry discussed selecting a guardian to care for minor children. In this post I elaborate on guardian selection and want to point out one of the many advantages of having a living trust as your estate plan rather than a will alone. In addition to avoiding costly and lengthy probate proceedings, our comprehensive living trust package includes both a will and a trust.
Guardians are appointed in the will. Successor trustees are appointed in the trust. Successor trustees manage your
finances in the event you become ill, disabled, or die whereas a guardian is responsible for taking care of your child(ren)’s daily needs, health, etc. So, if you are not sure who to pick for either or both roles, the fact that there are two roles to fill allows you to
appoint more people in different roles and you don’t have to worry about hurting feelings or “playing favorites” since each would have a job in managing your affairs in the event something happens to you.
Maybe one person is better with money and another more nurturing or who you’d feel more comfortable caring for your children. Other factors to consider include location—where do you want your children to grow up? In the home they’ve been growing up in? Or relocate to the would-be guardian’s home? Who would be willing or able to accommodate a move to your home if that is what you want?
Also, how will you provide financially for the guardian? Oftentimes people want the same person to fill both roles of guardian and successor trustee, but there is another benefit to appointing different people—checks and balances. If different people are filling these roles (one managing your finances, the other caring for your child(ren)) you avoid any chance of a later contest by a child against a guardian who was also acting as trustee. Another way to avoid potential conflict is to set aside a share directly for the guardian if you
wish. Whatever you decide, your estate plan needs to be tailored to your individual needs, which is why it is important to have an experienced attorney help you.