Berman & Asbel, LLP

How individuals can maintain control through estate planning

As a person's health changes or as he or she gets older, there is often a greater need for an individual to exert control over their belongings. One of the primary methods that Pennsylvania individuals can have the sense of control that they long for is to establish it through estate planning.

Settlors may believe that they will give up control if they establish an irrevocable trust, but this is not always the case. If the trust is drafted in a proper fashion, the settlor can still have control of the trust because they will be able to change who the trustee is. While some individuals may believe that they must also be named as the trustee to maintain this control, if they have the power to change the trustee, this is not necessary. Individuals may sometimes be counseled to get rid of their home by gifting it to a loved one. The concept behind this move is to help get rid of assets so that they do not affect a person's Medicaid eligibility. However, taking this action equates to giving up a safe place to live or the ability to tap into the equity of the home to help pay for medical expenses or other needs.

Another aspect where control becomes an issue is when an individual is caring for an elderly parent. If an individual is placed in the position to care for an elderly parent, his or her own family and his or her own needs, that individual can often feel control slipping away. The individual can focus on maintaining control over his or her own affairs to maintain balance.

Individuals who would like to retain control of their assets and trusts may draft their estate plan in a way that leaves them with controlling powers. An estate planning lawyer may be able to draft a trust or other document to help effectuate this goal.

Source: Forbes, "Never Give Up Control When You Create Your Estate Plan", Mark Eghrari, November 13, 2014

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