For a long time, I’ve been using WisPACT trusts to hold money for special needs beneficiaries. For people who are unfamiliar with special needs trusts or WisPACT, what WisPACT does is manage a pooled special needs trust (SNT). Like any other SNT, the funds are managed to supplement—not replace—government programs like SSI and MA. The pooled part means that disabled individuals have their own accounts with WisPACT. WisPACT hires a corporate money manager (currently, Chemical Bank) to manage the funds as a single pool, and gets a favorable fee structure, since it has millions to invest. WisPACT makes decisions about distributions in consultation with a trust advisor (a family member or guardian of the beneficiary).
Every estate plan we do starts with a free consultation. We get a lot done during those meetings, but they really (honestly) don’t require much preparation. Here’s what happens.
First, we cover the basics of what an estate plan does, and how the process works. Next is a chance to get to know a little bit about you. We want to understand your family structure—how many kids and what are their ages, and same for any grandkids. For people without kids, we want to understand who your nearest relatives are. We also want to understand asset structure. We don’t need to know too many details—just a general idea of net worth and how it is structured.
We do a lot of estate plans for young families. (By young families, I mean any family with kids under 18.) Young families don’t need anything complicated, but they do have a couple of key estate planning needs.
First up is naming guardians. Guardians are the people who have parental responsibility for the kids if something happens to their parents. For most parents, this is not necessarily obvious—our clients might have parents on both sides, brothers and sisters on both sides, godparents (maybe more than one set if there are multiple kids), close friends who they talked to about this, and so on. So it’s important to write it down, otherwise the court will choose and it might not be who the parents would have chosen.
A little over a week ago, the New York Times and others reported that the DOJ had mistakenly revealed that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, had been secretly charged with crimes in federal court. The charges had been filed under seal, most likely to make it easier to apprehend him.
How did this come out? A copy and paste error by a U.S. Attorney, who mistakenly included a reference to the charges in an unrelated court filing.
This is a big potential problem for estate planning attorneys, too. And it’s not hard to do. In any given set of estate planning documents, our clients’ names show up in the documents anywhere from 15-50 times. Using traditional copy-paste methods, each one of those places is an opportunity to leave a prior client’s name in the document, breaching confidentiality obligations and creating an error in the document.
Welcome to the Wisconsin Trusts & Estates blog! This is a place for random thoughts on estate planning topics, as well as notes on practice management and document assembly. There should be a little bit for everyone—some posts intended for the public, and others for trusts and estates professionals or attorneys interested in document assembly.
Thanks for reading, and if you find something useful, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments.