You bet. But what work do they do? Not much if they are not properly drafted and if you don’t use them properly. I speak with many attorneys who, like me, do some or a lot of their legal work in estate planning. Seldom do I run into one of them who does not have a story about a person coming into their office with a trust they did not understand.
Why is the lack of understanding of trusts so prevalent? I suspect it is a client’s expectation that trusts are just like wills – don’t we just make it and forget it? Well the answer to that question regarding wills is “not necessarily” (you should review your will on your own and with your estate planning attorney every few years). But the answer to that question with regard to trusts is “most assuredly not.”
Trusts are living documents. They need regular attention. You need to keep it funded properly. Your trustee may need to send periodic notices, review investments regularly, maintain books of account, and provide information to or respond to requests from beneficiaries.
Usually when a trust is set up the drafting attorney supplies detailed instructions to the client, either verbally or in writing. The client’s duty is to understand these instructions, ask questions if they don’t understand, and implement the instructions or return to his or her attorney for clarification or assistance. Main idea – follow the instructions.
Trusts do work when understood and when proper attention is paid to them. Without such follow up, a trust might not work as expected.