It happened again.  After telling the audience at a recent seminar that trusts really are living documents that need to be updated periodically, I was approached by several attendees afterward asking if I really meant their trust needed to be updated. After all, they only want to make minor changes; they don’t need anything big; their trust was created by a very good attorney.

That’s when I told them that any trust needs to be reviewed regularly, no matter how good the attorney or the trust. People change, lives change, and laws change—and any of these changes could affect your trust. In fact, I recommend that my own clients review their trusts annually and updatetheir trusts every 2 to 3 years, if for no other reason than because I am a better attorney today than I was yesterday and can do more to protect them and their families.

People are often surprised when I tell them that the cost of updating their trust can be as much as they paid for their entire trust several years ago. They don’t understand why an “update” is so involved and expensive.  This reaction led me to an epiphany.

These folks understand “update” differently.  When a client hears “update,” they think minor modifications: changes to the people named, the trustees, or distributions. These “modifications” are like getting the oil changed and the tires rotated on your car.  They are items that need regular maintenance.

An “update”, however, is much more comprehensive; it includes changes that take into consideration:

  • Tax law changes,
  • State law and asset protection changes,
  • Changes affecting how the trustees manage and distribute your money,
  • Incorporation of new ideas,
  • Plugging holes in old legal thinking that plagued older documents, and
  • The most current thinking of over 1,000 lawyers

An “update” is trading in your worn out used car for a newer model that performs better.  The standard provisions have been re-engineered to perform better.  “Updating” your trust in my office means you are getting the best protection for your family, and your hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

As a trust based estate planner I aspire to show you the benefits of making modifications when necessary, and updating when the benefits of using modern language insure the result you desire and deserve.

If you are happy with your old car and just need an oil change or new tires, don’t buy a new car; but if a new car appeals to you, it will be a good value. Is the cost too much?  Absolutely not, but sticker shock is a powerful emotion.

Can I “sell” a Chevrolet for the same price as a Cadillac?  No, and I don’t want to; a Chevrolet might be right for your family and your budget – it will provide a reliable result if you have no special circumstances, hopes, or aspirations.  However, I don’t often advocate in favor of a Chevrolet because experience teaches me that in an alarming number of cases the Chevy will fail when you need it most—after you die.  No one wants an out of warranty repair bill.

My personal satisfaction and passion comes from making sure you understand the choice you are making.  As long as you see both the Chevrolet and the Cadillac for what they are and choose the one that provides you the best value, we will both be happy.

In my next post I’ll give some concrete examples describing why my constantly improving Cadillac trust is a better value than your current vintage Chevrolet trust.