Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Planning to Protect a Second Wife and Five Adult Daughters

Over the past year our goal in writing Plainly Legal was to discuss many of the technical legal issues in the area of estate planning that impact the practices of financial planners. Using this information as a basis, going forward we will be addressing specific situations raised by our clients and how we dealt with those situations. As we address these examples, we will do our best to link back to previous posts that address the technical issues. If any of you run across an issue or have a question on how to solve a client problem, feel free to e-mail us and we can address it in future posts.

A client of ours, diagnosed with cancer and given only a short time to live, was concerned about protecting his second wife during her lifetime, yet treating his five adult daughters fairly. The client owned a valuable business and also had significant personal assets, but was concerned that some of his daughters might create problems for his wife after his death. He was also concerned that he had not taught his daughters the value of money and worried they would not handle an inheritance well.
Initially, he wanted to leave everything in trust for his wife for use during her lifetime, with distributions to the daughters after her death. Knowing that the wife was somewhat younger than our client was and in good health, I raised the issue that it might be some time before the daughters received anything. To address this concern I suggested we carve out sufficient assets in a Marital Trust, including the residence and sufficient invested assets to maintain the wife's accustomed standard of living, for her use during her lifetime. Since the residence had significant value, we wanted to provide flexibility for the wife if she ever decided to sell the residence, and therefore we provided the Trustee with the power to sell the residence and use the funds to purchase a new residence for the wife, with any remaining funds added to the Marital Trust for the spouse. This power to purchase a new residence gave the wife the flexibility to downsize her residence or move to a different state for health or personal reasons if necessary. We also named the wife as a Co-Trustee of the Marital Trust set aside for her benefit, so that she had a say in the management of the assets held for her benefit.
To protect the daughters from their spending habits and maintain the value of the business, we placed the business and the remaining assets in a Children's Trust for the daughters benefit. The daughters received income automatically from their Trust each year, but principal distributions were totally discretionary until the oldest child reached the age of forty. At that point, the trust began distributing principal at the rate of 20% per year for the next five years. Our client felt comfortable that this would provide an income stream for each of the daughters, allowing them time to learn the value of money and how to manage the business, yet protect the value of the business so that disagreements among his daughters would not result in the sale of the business. To address the client’s concern that his daughters might cause his wife problems, we suggested that the wife be the Trustee of the Children's Trust, with a corporate fiduciary as a Successor Trustee in the event that the wife ever decided to resign as Trustee. Our client liked the idea because it gave the wife control over the children's future assets and distributions, which he felt would lessen the chance that the children would give her problems.
Fourteen years have passed and I am happy to report that the Marital Trust, with good investment advice, has provided sufficient income to maintain the wife's accustomed standard of living. She still lives in and enjoys the residence. Over time, the daughters received all their distributions and now jointly own the still successful family business. They learned the values of hard work and cooperation and the business provides each of them a good income. As an added bonus, some of them even enjoy a good relationship with their stepmother.
This is a good example of how planning can protect families and their assets following a client’s passing. While this particular client was in good health, we completed other planning that facilitated a smooth transition of other business assets and provided funds for payment of Federal Estate taxes when the client passed away. Next week we will address this planning in detail.

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