The complexities of estate planning with trusts

Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died in the first part of 2019, but she revised her will as recently as September 2018. This is not unusual for a person who wants to make sure an estate plan remains current in terms of assets, family members and plans. Radziwill also had a trust document from 2017. Like Radziwill, people in Georgia should make sure they review their estate plan and keep it current.

Radziwill's family was wealthy, and her will mentions three trusts. Her mother created one for her. Radziwill's sister is the grantor on another created in 1975, for which Radziwill is the trustee along with a bank as corporate trustee. Using what is known as a "special power of appointment," Radziwill was able to direct trust principal into a trust for her daughter. The special power of appointment allows only a very limited type of control and helps preserve a trust's original purpose. A power of appointment gives unlimited control.

Over decades, most families experience births, deaths and other changes, and Radziwill would have needed to update the estate plan to reflect those changes. A power of appointment can allow a person to restrict who gets assets in the following generation or even to eliminate someone from succession altogether if necessary.

People who have a complicated estate or family situation may want to discuss estate planning with an attorney. If the person does want to disinherit a family member, it may not be as simple as just leaving the person out of the will. An attorney may be able to assist in creating an estate plan that is less vulnerable to challenges by family members who are upset with its provisions. If a family member is likely to be irresponsible with an inheritance, a trust could be created that leaves control with a trustee.

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