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6 Ways To Ensure Flexibility In Your Estate Plan

6 Ways to Ensure Flexibility in Your Estate Plan

Whether you’ve had an estate plan for some time, or you’re just getting started, you probably know that estate planning can be confusing and complicated. According to, your estate plan needs flexibility now more than ever! Estate tax law can shift, the value of property in your estate fluctuates, and your personal circumstances are subject to change. But the unknown doesn’t have to stop you from maximizing the flexibility you want for your family now and in the future.

Here are a few tips to get you started on planning your estate with a focus on short-term and long-term flexibility.

1.  Empower beneficiaries to make changes
As you establish a trust, you can choose to enable your beneficiaries to change the terms of a trust to benefit their own heirs or named charities. For example, a trust may state that upon a beneficiary’s passing, all assets will be split equally among the beneficiary’s two children. However, if you plan ahead, you can write the original trust so that it permits the beneficiary to change these terms. If you do this, your beneficiary can customize the allocation of assets to the next beneficiaries.

2. Allow trust assets to be distributed to a new trust, with new terms
You can also create your trust so that you permit the trustee to distribute trust assets to another trust (with different terms) in the interest of one or more beneficiaries of the first trust. With this kind of flexibility, you could give your trustee the power to modify the terms under certain circumstances.

3. Give the grantor the ability to substitute trust assets for tax purposes
You can allow a helpful level of flexibility that reduces tax liability. With this type of planning, it’s possible to allow a grantor to pay an irrevocable trust’s taxes or substitute low-cost-basis trust assets with high-cost-basis assets in their name to take advantage of a step-up in cost basis at death.

4. Provide special modification powers to trust protectors
A trust protector is someone who has the authority to perform special duties with regard to a trust, such as directing trustees in their administration of the trust. You can enhance overall flexibility by enabling trust protectors to modify certain details of the trust including the physical location of trust assets for the purposes of legal jurisdiction or directing the trustee regarding certain actions, and more.

5. Have a contingency plan for your fiduciary

A fiduciary is a person you have entrusted to execute your wishes, which can be in a will, a trust, a power of attorney, or a medical directive. But what if your fiduciary either (a) dies before you (b) is unable to serve or (c) is now unwilling to serve? This is where the back-up plan becomes important, explains LifeLawyer. Without a contingency, your new fiduciary may become someone you wouldn’t want in that role. When no contingency is named in the document, the roles are filled by the closest, able and willing, living relative. Take the time now to appoint the contingency you want.

6. Include a protector

Estate planning professionals are starting to include protectors in irrevocable trusts based on the U.S, says RetirementWatch. A protector can have either broad or limited powers, and the actions the protector can take are limited by the grantor’s wishes. A protector might be empowered to add or delete beneficiaries, which can be helpful if additional births in the family are likely. The protector might be allowed to change the age at which distributions will be made, the amounts of the distributions, or other terms of trust distributions – which can be helpful if a beneficiary develops a problem such as debt, substance abuse, or gambling. There also might be a need to accelerate distributions for a medical emergency or disability.

These 6 tips are just the beginning of creating flexible estate plans that fit your needs and wishes. Do you need legal assistance with estate planning, or want help understanding how to make the most of your estate? Let the Baby Boomers’ Barrister help you strategize this next season of your life and the legacy you’ll leave behind. No matter the size or complexity of your estate, we are dedicated to giving you and your family the comfort that comes with a flexible estate plan. With offices in St. Petersburg and Tampa, we’re focused on providing you a simple and stress-free experience – for all your estate planning and elder law needs. Contact our St. Petersburg office today at (727) 565-4250 or online.


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