VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Controlling asset distribution in an estate plan

Florida parents who are creating estate plans might be concerned about how to leave assets to an adult child who is not responsible with money. Further complications could be created if one child is responsible and the other is not because the parent may be concerned about treating both children equally.

A trust might be a good alternative to a will. It can be set up so that it distributes assets at certain intervals or after certain conditions have been met. A trust must be overseen by a trustee, and another option is to give the trustee control over when the assets are distributed.

Whether or not the trustee controls the distributions, it is generally best to avoid making a sibling the trustee. This can create tension and put an unfair burden on the family member. A better choice might be a professional or a family friend. Trusts can be set up for all children or just for one of them. A parent who is worried that the arrangement might be unfair if only one child's assets are in a trust could consider that a trust may actually be a help to the child.

An attorney who has experience with these matters can assist clients with their estate planning including explaining the role of trusts. For example, a trust can be revocable or irrevocable depending on its purpose and whether the owner wants to be able to make changes to it. An attorney also may be helpful if a person wishes to leave a family member out of the will altogether. There are ways of doing this that make it less likely that an estate plan is less vulnerable to a legal challenge.

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