Isn’t having a will good enough? Not really. In Nevada, if your estate exceeds $20,000 or if you own any real estate and you pass away, your estate is in probate court. This happens whether or not you have a will.

As I tell my clients, “if you like your attorney more than your kids, get a will. If you like your kids more than your attorney, get a trust.” Having a will means sending your estate through probate (i.e., good for your attorney). Having a trust and funding it with your assets means avoiding probate (i.e., good for your beneficiaries).

What Can A Trust Do For Me?

Avoid probate. A properly funded living trust will avoid the time, expense and hassle of forcing your estate through probate.

Make sure the right people get what you want them to get. You will be doing your family and loved ones a huge favor by clearly setting forth your wishes of who gets what and under what conditions. The worst thing that can happen is to not clearly indicate your wishes and then have your kids or beneficiaries fight over your stuff. Most people I know would rather burn it all than to have their family torn apart by contentions and strife after they’re gone. Fortunately, this is really quite easy to do — simply state what your wishes are so there is no confusion about what you want to have happen after you’ve gone.

Must I treat everyone equally?

Absolutely not. You are free to dispose of your assets however you choose. “Fair” does not necessarily mean “equal.” Some children may have greater needs than others. Some may be irresponsible and giving them too much too fast may end up hurting rather than helping your child. Most people only want loved ones to inherit something if it’s going to help them, not hurt them.

Can I protect my beneficiaries from themselves?

Absolutely. If a child or beneficiary is at risk, you don’t necessarily need to disinherit them to protect them. You can create a trust for your child within your living trust. This trust for your child doesn’t come into existence until you pass away. You choose someone responsible to serve as the trustee. This person can be a trusted family member or a professional trustee. Funds are only disbursed as the trustee determines it would be helpful and not harmful to the beneficiary.

What if my child is in trouble?

Is it possible to protect my beneficiaries if they happen to be going through a crisis when I pass away? Yes. Our standard trust provisions allow the trustee to withhold any distribution if it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the beneficiary to do so. For example, if the beneficiary is in the middle of a divorce, has had a business failure, financial crisis or is contemplating filing bankruptcy, was at fault in a car accident, has incurred large medical expenses, is abusing drugs or alcohol or any other reason that would make it imprudent to inherit money, the trustee has the discretion to withhold distribution until the crisis has passed. We want a beneficiary’s inheritance to go solely to him or her and not to anyone adverse to him or her.

This is why a trust is so important — it can ensure that what you pass on to your beneficiaries will, in fact, be a benefit
to them. 

Special Needs Trusts

When my clients have a disabled child, they almost always tell me that they need to disinherit that child so he or she won’t lose their government benefits. I then try to educate them that disinheriting them is not necessary. We can create a special needs trust for their handicapped or disabled child, which will not jeopardize any governmental benefits or assistance. A properly structured trust will enable the child to have funds available for his or her use and benefit while not disqualifying him or her from other assistance.

We typically have these trusts administered by another family member who is close to the beneficiary and is aware of his or her needs. The trust can continue throughout the life of the beneficiary and any remaining assets distributed to the parents’ other beneficiaries upon the death of the disabled child.