If you have minor children, your legal affairs are not in order without a Will with a minor’s trust. Your lawblogger’s first boss used to say that the cost of the sports car your child purchases at eighteen is directly proportional to the amount of his or her inheritance. Some lawyers –including yours truly– will refuse to prepare a Will which omits a trust if minor children are involved. A trust is an absolutely necessary vehicle to manage your assets for the benefit of your children — even after they turn eighteen. Kids who have lost their parents need expert guidance to handle substantial sums of money until they mature later in their twenties (my trusts run at least to the age of twenty five).
Don’t think you will have enough to leave your kids to make a trust worthwhile? Just consider that the instrumentality of their orphaning is likely to be a catastrophic accident. Instant fortune even though you will not be here to enjoy it.
Once you realize that you will need to set up a testamentary trust for your kids, you will need to choose a trustee. Some rules of thumb :
1. Choose a person whom you regard to be absolutely honest and trustworthy and adept at handling money. This absolutely does not have to be your guardian. If you think your children would be best off with your sister but your brother in law is a shifty dude of questionable honesty, simply appoint a different person to serve as trustee while your sister serves as guardian.
2.Choose a person who is relatively young. If your children are toddlers or in kindergarten, your sixty-something year old parents will be well into their eighties by the time the trust ends. Pick someone who will be able to handle the work as your kids grow .
3. Remember that children –especially teens– who have lost their parents tend to be disturbed and angry. Many handle their parents’ deaths as abandonment. Sometimes dealing with them is no picnic at all, especially as they get older and want to throw their weight around. Make sure that the person you ask to serve as your trustee understands that your kids may turn downright nasty during some periods of their teen years and may not accept financial decisions made for their own good.
4. Boilerplate Wills and Trusts provide that your trustee will serve "without bond or undertaking". Is this what you want? You have left your kids a chunk of money which you hope will adequately provide for them. A couple of thousand dollars a year for a bonding premium is not the worst thing in the world since it will insure your kids against a trustee who turns out to be not as honest or capable as you might think.
5. Direct that your trustee use a competent financial adviser. An investment in Egyptian chocolate-covered cotton futures will probably not work out too well for your kids. Make sure your trustee has the ability and guidance to invest your funds prudently.
Finally, have a long consultation with your attorney and your financial advisor. Pay for it –worthwhile advice is worth what it costs.