How to keep your assets in your family bloodline

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If you want to make sure your assets will avoid unnecessary court involvement and will stay in your family bloodline, then you need to use a revocable trust as a substitute for a will.

In that trust, you can direct assets to loved ones "in trust" for their benefit, and direct that, when they pass, their trust goes to their children, who are among your lineal blood descendants.

Assets titled in a trust do not go through probate. Assets left in trust, where the remainder is directed to stay in the family bloodline, will stay in the family bloodline.

Assets left to a loved one, that is drawn properly, can be protected from lawsuits, prevent commingling of assets, and can be drawn in a way so the beneficiary will not lose government benefits, will not squander the money (if they are a spendthrift).

There are many options and plans that differ among clients, depending on their goals and their family dynamics.

A typical case might be a husband and wife - let's say they are Bob and Francine. They have two children, Sam and Janice, who are married; and three grandchildren, Emily, Jake and Frank.

Bob and Francine want to make sure their $1.5 million in assets will avoid unnecessary court, will not be commingled with their in-laws' assets, and will be protected from lawsuits and guaranteed to stay in their family bloodline. What should they do?

They should each have revocable living trusts that spell out all of the above. Assets need to be titled properly and designated properly. Perhaps they decide to use an agreement not to alter the plan so as to protect the inheritance so the kids will not be disinherited. This is a tool often used in second marriages where the couple wishes to ensure the distribution will be a certain way.

As is the case with all estate plans, these documents need to be customized for you and your family, reflecting your goals and your assets.

Usually, a good plan can develop where there is proper meeting of the minds between the lawyer and the client, and all assets are titled optimally and all designations coordinated with the plan.

The attorney's job, in part, is to teach the client how he or she can use legal tools to accomplish his or her goals. Every case is unique and customized legal counsel is advisable in all cases.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate and elder law planning attorney. mwinnesq.com

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