Sunday, September 19, 2010

Farm Estate Planning and Trust Protector

I recently attended the Farm Estate and Business Planning Seminar in Ames, Iowa, which is put on by the Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation with Roger McEowen as the Director. Each year I'm impressed with the materials and speakers presented.

One of the speakers this year, Wayne Reames, discussed utilizing trust protectors. I have used trust protectors in the past for substantially-sized estates, but Mr. Reames further highlighted some of the benefits in even modest estates. A common problem is who is to serve as trustee. A trustee is responsible for investing and managing trust assets, which can be substantial, preparation and filing tax returns, preparing and providing accounting reports and dealing with distribution requests from beneficiaries. This can be a daunting task for many people.

Rather than having friends or family members serve as trustee, and potentially be in over their head, naming a bank as a trustee may be a better solution. Then, as a way to keep the family involved, name a trusted family member as a "trust protector" and give them the ability to remove and replace a trustee. They don't have to deal with requests for funds, tax returns, investment decisions, or accounting, but yet have plenty of authority to make sure the trust is managed properly with the ability to pull the "hook".

Again, just another planning tool for your estate plan.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Iowa Guardianship Proceedings in the News

Another guardianship proceeding in Iowa is getting some notoriety lately after another one recently was in the news. The Des Moines Register has been following a story involving a 16 year old mom's battle to get her 1 year old daughter back from the 16 year old's family members. Unfortunately, the story highlights some legitimate concerns over the guardianship process in general:

(1) Publicity - This is open record for the whole world to watch your life on stage. Like all court proceedings, they are open proceedings for the public or the media. The Des Moines Register brought in their legal counsel to prevent/"urge" Associate Probate Judge Klotz from closing the proceedings and requests to keep the reporter out of the courtroom.

(2) Delay - The time involved in getting the facts before the court and for the court to review the evidence can take months. The challenge is do you take the child away from the parent for safety concerns or do you return the child to the parent when there is allegedly some danger involved. Tough call.

Guardianship proceedings are continuing to grow in numbers and crowd the court docket. Guardianships can cover individuals from 1 day old infants to 109 year old individuals and everything in between.