Grandma’s trust is not for you
Among the estate planning myths we meet on a regular basis is the mistaken belief that grandmother’s 50 year old trust, covered with dust and 2 pages long, will work just fine for you and your family in this day and age. Even though we would NEVER consider wearing grandma’s 50-year-old clothes (whether or not such clothes fit), some people convince themselves that copying and adopting a 50 year old (or even 10-year-old) estate plan written for another person is good practice.
We have a more detailed discussion on this topic HERE ON OUR WEBSITE (CLICK HERE) and our book titled “20 Myths of Estate Planning–What you don’t know CAN hurt you” also covers and resolve this misunderstanding. But in short, just some common sense should dispel this myth and help us to clearly see that outdated estate plans that were designed for another person, in another generation, are not any more appropriate for us than someone else’s prescription medicines.
Even forgetting the age and time difference is the fact that grandmother’s estate plan was intended for her and her family. Every person is different and every family is different, with unique personalities, life situations and challenges. Again, borrowing the prescription example, just as one medication may work well for my father–that does NOT mean such a medicine will work well for me. Likewise, an estate plan that was intended to accomplish grandma’s goals and objectives, while also factoring in the life circumstances of grandfather, grandmother and their family members is NOT something that will have good application in your life. Why? Well, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the legal landscape has changed much in recent years. This is true with respect to federal tax laws, state tax laws and various other laws that have application today with regard to your estate plan, including the very recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Clark v. Rameker.
But again, we come back to common sense (forget legal technicalities for a moment). Common sense tells us that taking something that was designed and intended for someone else and that person’s family, in a different time, is not a wise thing to do. When in doubt, use your common sense. Not always, but most often, common sense is applicable in the sometimes confusing world of estate planning and legal matters generally.