You’ve officially decided to set up a trust to potentially protect your assets and secure your financial legacy.
You’ve thought about what you want to accomplish with the trust and who it will benefit — and you’re ready to put those plans into action. Now it’s time to kickstart the process by having a trust planning meeting. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for that meeting and make it as efficient as possible.
What will my trust planning appointment look like?
No two trust appointments are alike, just as no two trusts are alike. Often, a trust appointment will take place at your attorney’s office. If you’ve chosen a corporate trustee to manage your trust for you (such as a financial institution), your trust appointment could also be held there.
Depending on where you are in the trust planning process, your initial meeting might involve going over background information on your plans or talking through different scenarios and finalizing decisions.
“All clients come to us from a different place,” says Ivory Ruud, senior vice president and regional trust manager with U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “Each situation is different, so we respond to each individual client’s needs.”
Regardless of how long you’ve been in the pre-planning stages with a bank or another trustee, use your first meeting to ask plenty of questions, discuss possible concerns and get a sense of what the process will look like from start to finish.
Ideally, the first meeting is a time to get everyone on your team together to work through issues and exchange ideas.
What decisions do I need to make before the trust planning meeting?
“It’s not so important to have decided certain things, but to have thought about certain things,” Ruud explains. No matter how far you’ve gone in pre-planning, come to your meeting with a general idea of what you want your trust to look like. To ensure you can have a productive dialogue with your advisors, think about the following things ahead of time:
- What you want to leave in your trust. Which assets are involved?
- The designated beneficiaries of your trust. Who do you want to receive these assets?
- The terms of the trust. What parameters do you want to set on how your assets are distributed?
- Your trustee, co-trustee or corporate trustee. If you select a financial institution as your trustee, you also have the option to appoint a co-trustee, which could be a friend or family member.
- The potential for charitable giving. Consider whether you’d like to make charitable donations through your trust during your lifetime or after your death.
Who should attend a trust planning meeting?
This initial planning meeting is “often about pulling the entire team together” to discuss the best way to execute your wishes, Ruud says. Depending on your circumstances and needs, your team might consist of the following professionals:
- Wealth planning advisors
- Tax advisor/accountant
- Co-trustee, if applicable
The team and each member’s level of involvement will depend on your comprehensive financial situation and the complexity of the trust. Ultimately, it’s you and your attorney who are responsible for the legal establishment of the trust, with the help and participation of your other advisors. “Your advisors can help make the decision-making process smoother, so you can make the most efficient use of time with your attorney,” Ruud explains.
If you have asked someone to serve as a co-trustee with the financial institution, your co-trustee could attend the meeting as well. “It’s good for any co-trustees to participate from the start,” Ruud says. “That way, we know them, so that we’re familiar with each other when the trust is created, and we start working together to administer it.”
What’s the goal of the first trust planning meeting?
Your situation, needs and timeline will dictate the specific objectives of your first planning meeting. But ideally, the first meeting is a time to get everyone on your team together to work through issues and exchange ideas. You can talk through different options and scenarios that would help you achieve the desired outcome for your trust. You and your attorney make final decisions (including finalizing documents), but your advisors are there to play a strong supporting role in that relationship.
“We’ll illustrate different strategies and ask questions about different options based on your circumstances,” Ruud explains, “and we’ll discuss what options might ultimately look like in order to help establish a final consensus.”
The hallmark of a successful planning meeting is when all the attendees leave the meeting with concrete action items and a timeline for getting the trust finalized. And even though individual situations and circumstances vary, the ultimate goal of establishing a trust remains the same: setting up a structure that helps you manage and potentially protect your financial legacy.