The Case for Brevity in Trust Documents

The most powerful and flexible tool estate planners have today is the revocable living trust. It is essentially a substitute for a will that allows you to avoid the often lengthy and expensive probate process, while giving you options for asset protection, tax planning, and disability planning in a way that a simple will simply does not.

When reviewing a client’s prior trust documents, many which are 70, 80, or a hundred plus pages in length, I often find distinct sections and language from the most popular software packages used by attorneys for estate planning.

You may be surprised to hear that I have had more than a few clients who have never even dreamed of owning a farm, yet they had multiple pages in their trust document dedicated in detail to the handling of nonexistent farm equipment and livestock!

While there is virtue in planning for all contingencies, part of the work of an estate planner is pruning away what is unnecessary and presenting a plan the client can genuinely understand. Not every client needs detailed farm equipment and livestock planning. Not every client has issues with the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax. Not every client needs complex Medicaid planning.

An over-complex plan puts a burden on the loved ones who are coming behind you to clear up the estate after your death. These legal documents must be written in a certain way to ensure they comply with the law, but that doesn’t mean they should be bloated with needless provisions. Except in very unusual circumstances, your estate plan should be something you can wrap your head around.

If you ever look at your trust document and wonder why on earth it’s as long as it is, it might be time to have it looked at. There may be legitimate reasons for the length, but there may also be opportunities to accomplish all of your goals in twenty pages instead of a hundred – and save time, expense, and confusion for your loved ones after your death.

Contact our Trust and Estate Planning team to plan your estate, alter your estate, or ask any questions you may have.