Seniors are susceptible to financial exploitation and abuse from strangers, caregivers, and even family members. Savings accumulated over a lifetime can vanish in an instant. Putting assets in a revocable living trust is one way to safeguard assets against elder financial exploitation.
Due in part to issues relating to deteriorating health and cognitive decline, elders are vulnerable to financial and personal harm. Scientific studies by the National Institutes of Health reveal that physiological changes in the brain over time diminish a person’s ability to identify threats and evaluate the trustworthiness of other people. To protect against these risks, elders need to safeguard themselves and their assets in every possible way.
At The Law Office of Henry Nash in Rockville, Maryland, our practice includes a full range of elder law services to clients. We help elders and their families in many different circumstances. Our goal always is to ensure that the senior is protected from all types of elder abuse and financial exploitation.
Trusts come in many types, each one designed to accomplish a specific purpose. A revocable living trust — or inter vivos trust — is a trust established during the grantor’s lifetime. The grantor (person creating the trust) is the beneficiary of the trust during his or her lifetime.
A revocable living trust can be changed or terminated at any time. Typically, the trust becomes irrevocable on the grantor’s death, and the successor trustee distributes the assets to the grantor’s beneficiaries. One benefit of this type of trust is that the assets do not go through probate, but pass directly to the grantor’s beneficiaries.
The grantor retains full control over all the assets placed in the trust, because the grantor is the trustee (as well as a beneficiary) of the trust. In some cases, the grantor is the only trustee. However, when a senior creates a revocable living trust to safeguard assets against exploitation, a co-trustee is also named.
The co-trustee may be a trusted family member or a financial advisor. The co-trustee helps the grantor with management of the assets and distributions to the grantor from trust. In this way, the co-trustee has oversight responsibility for the trust and can monitor the activity and protect the elder from exploitation and abuse. Keeping assets protected in a trust thwarts access to the elder’s funds by unscrupulous family members and strangers.
The co-trustee may simply assist the grantor in managing the trust. If the grantor prefers, the co-trustee may handle all the details involved in administering the trust. If the grantor becomes unable to manage the trust, the co-trustee assumes full responsibility for the trust and for taking care of the grantor’s financial needs.
Before creating any kind of trust, it is essential to talk with experienced estate planning and elder law attorney. You should never create a trust — or sign any other kind of legal document — using an online service or a form given to you by a family member or caregiver. Signing a document without discussing the implications with a lawyer puts you and your assets at significant risk.
For seniors, creating any type of trust requires a complete analysis of all your personal and financial circumstances. If you may need nursing home care in the future and may qualify for Medicaid, that fact will affect what type of trust you is best for you. If you have a spouse, your spouse’s future needs should also be taken into account before you create any type of trust.
If a revocable living trust is appropriate for your circumstances, your estate planning attorney will include the proper trust document in your estate plan. Your estate plan will include other documents as well, such as a Will, a durable financial power of attorney and advanced health care directives.
For elders, sometimes other types of trusts are better suited to their circumstances and anticipated needs than a revocable living trust. When you consult a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, your lawyer takes the time to learn all about you, including your personal and financial circumstances. If you are married, your spouse’s circumstances also are relevant. Then your attorney explains what your best strategy is for protecting yourself and your assets.
In other words, protecting your assets through proper estate planning is never a one-size-fits-all process. It also does not mean simply filling out a form. Your estate plan and your strategy to protect your assets should be tailored to fit your own circumstances, needs, and goals. The process of developing a plan requires assistance from an experienced professional.
Attorney Henry Nash has extensive experience helping elders and their families work through the complex laws and concerns inherent in all types of elder law matters, including estate planning and Medicaid planning. When a revocable living trust is an appropriate way for a senior to protect assets against financial exploitation, we create the appropriate documentation and assist with setting up the trust.
At The Law Office of Henry Nash, we work with clients in Rockville, throughout Montgomery County, and elsewhere in Maryland. We also assist out-of-state clients who have loved ones residing in the state. If you have any questions or concerns about any issues relating to revocable living trusts or any of our services, we welcome you to call us at (301) 998-6111 or contact us through our online form.