When we are concerned about the well-being of our children, estate planning quickly becomes complex.
Because if we have concerns about our children but love them unconditionally, we want to make sure they spend their inheritance wisely. Yet, we often hesitate about limiting their ability to control their inheritance.
Clearly, we must find a compromise – we can’t discount our concerns and fears, and we also can’t discount the fact that we feel we should completely trust our children.
When we create a trust for our children, we’re setting rules. Rules are found everywhere, from home, to the work place, and our society at large. Why shouldn't we have rules for a trust? When we give our children money to spend, sometimes we give it to them unconditionally as a gift. But more often, we give them money for specific things—a new down payment on a home, a new car, education, money towards a marriage, etc. If we gave our children money towards a masters degree, and they ended up going to the casino and spending it all, would we be very happy?
Having an independent co-trustee coupled with rules on trust distributions protects your children from themselves and others. It says to your children, I love you very much, and I want the best for you for the rest of your life and even perhaps your own children’s lives. Of course, others will look at the same plan and shrug their heads, saying they can’t fathom telling their kids how to spend their money.
You have to decide which camp you fit into – the freedom camp or the control camp. There is a compromise. But you cannot have absolutely freedom and absolute control.