Trusts: Size Matters

The trusts I draft are almost always quite long–in excess of 40 pages. I sometimes wonder if they’re too long. And then I encounter a problem caused by a short, poorly drafted trust and wonder no more.

Folks, you probably won’t discover what’s wrong with your trust or your parents’ trust until one of the grantors dies or becomes incapacitated, but by then it will probably be too late to do anything. That’s why you and your attorney must be very careful in the beginning to think through your plan and make sure your estate planning documents are in good order. You should make sure they cover the many contingencies that could result in a weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth if (when?) disgruntled beneficiaries decide to challenge the trustee.

Don’t think that will happen in your family? Then you haven’t seen what money or the lack thereof can do to people, people known as beneficiaries. I’m watching this happen right now. Three siblings arguing that a fourth sibling/trustee is up to no good. Most of their argument is based on what they perceive as a badly drafted 7- or 8- page trust.

Now without agreeing with them–in fact, I disagree with them–I can say unequivocally that a good 40+ page trust would easily withstand their assault. Why? Because those 40+ pages aren’t just boiler plate, thrown in to make the trust look official. No, those pages are chock full of provisions that deal with death, divorce, incapacity, disgruntled beneficiaries, and  the like. They give powers to the trustee to do what the grantor would do if he or she were still alive when the unforeseen need arises. In short, those extra pages ensure that the trust will do what it’s supposed to do well after the grantor has ridden off into the sunset.

So no, I don’t worry any more that my trusts are too long. They’re not. They cover all the bases, and that’s just right.

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