Most parents want to do right by their children up to the day they die. Attorney Carl Morrison, an estate planning expert, can help people create a situation where they’ll be able to continue to help loved ones even after death.
Proper estate planning eliminates problems that can occur after the death of a parent, such as siblings fighting over assets, which could lead to a lengthy legal process that can cost all involved time and money in addition to hard feelings.
Morrison, a former Marine who earned his law degree at DePaul and an advanced degree in administrative law at George Washington University, has helped hundreds of clients in estate planning. Morrison stressed establishing a living trust is key.
“You’re not only doing it just to make sure things happen the way you want, but you’re also doing it to save your kids from the hassle of a lengthy and costly probate,” said Morrison of setting up a trust. “You’re saving them time and money.”
Some parents appoint one child to be in charge of the distribution of assets, but that can lead to disputes among siblings about who gets what. It also can put the assigned person under a tremendous amount of stress.
“I have clients that don’t even want to name one of their children as the trustee,” said Morrison. “They don’t want to put a child in that position and they’ll name a corporate trustee. Wells Fargo and Bank of America both has its own trust department. There’s a fee there, but the parents feel that the fee is worth it so it doesn’t cause any friction with the children.”
Morrison said some parents protect their kids from themselves in the way they set up the trust. For example, if a parent believes their child has a gambling problem or a problem with drugs or alcohol, rather than give that child all the inheritance money in one payment, they’ll have the money distributed on a monthly basis.
“It’s called a sprinkling trust,” said Morrison. “They want it carried out over a period of time. That happens a lot.”
Morrison added that it is important for people to remember that they can change the set up of their trust at any time. For example, if that child the parent was worried about has shown for several years that he/she has straightened out their life, the sprinkling trust can be changed to a conventional distribution of assets.
Morrison said estate planning has become more challenging over the years, due largely to divorced people with kids remarrying.
“The estate planning becomes a little bit more complicated because we have so many more blended families than we used to,” said Morrison. “A couple comes in and they may be doing very, very well, but she’s got kids from a previous relationship and so does he. And how do they want to make sure that their own kids are protected when the first parent dies.
“Because I’ve seen situations like that, where the survivor of the two still has the right to amend and revoke and do everything with the trust, and then all of sudden (the other kids are out),” continued Morrison. “Or, if that doesn’t happen, there’s the fear that it may happen.”
Another scenario Morrison brought up is when a man wants to make sure his wife has everything she needs to live, but after she dies, if there’s anything left, he wants to make sure the money goes to his kids as well as her kids.
“You just don’t get a trust off LegalZoom.com and take care of those issues,” said Morrison.
While there is information about estate planning on the internet and documents one can download, Morrison said using a professional is the only way to go.
“When you get an estate plan, you don’t just get a living trust,” explained Morrison. “You get a spousal property agreement and you each get a pour over will saying if my assets aren’t in the trust or I haven’t named the trust as a beneficiary and that has to go to probate, I want the judge to rule that it is distributed per the terms of the trust. You get powers of attorney.
“You get Advance Health Care directives, and you get the document that allows somebody to look at your health records so they can make an educated decision with respect to your health if they have to make decisions for you when you’re not able to do it yourself,” continued Morrison. “Preparing the deeds to put the house in the trust, and the Preliminary Change of Ownership Report that goes along with it. Some counties require that there be other documents. There’s a myriad of things.”
Morrison added that estate planning should be done sooner rather than later.
“If you have minor children, you need to do estate planning,” said Morrison. “Not necessarily just for who’s going to get your estate and everything like that, but who are you going to nominate to be guardian of the kids if both parents should die at the same time.”
Morrison also urges the children of elderly parents to regularly check in with mom and dad.
“If you have an elder parent and someone is living with them, a sibling or caretaker, just be really, really vigilant and make sure that nobody is unduly influencing them and taking advantage of them,” said Morrison. “Not only for estate planning, but for anything.”
Morrison recently moved his office from River Village Plaza in Bonsall to the Fallbrook Air Park (2141 S. Mission Rd., Bldg. C) and he invites people to stop by his new office for a free consultation.
“I don’t charge to review trusts,” said Morrison, who prides himself on being accessible and responsive. “I answer my own phones. I’ll make house calls and I’ll see people at night or on the weekends if I have to.”
Morrison also practices real estate, business and aviation law.
For more information about Morrison Law, call Carl at (760) 724-9580 or visit www.morrison-law.net.