Too often we encounter skeptics who ask why they would need to have their estate plan reviewed annually, as we do in our LifeLegacy Program. “What could possibly change?” they ask. “Lots,” we answer. Here is just one example of something that has come up that has unintended consequences that are detrimental to most living trust plans.

In the wake of the recent financial scandals involving Wells Fargo, particularly, virtually all of the large brokerage firms and banks have revised the “fine print” in their “trust account” agreements. We are talking about Merrill Lynch, Raymond James, Bank of America, Edward Jones, etc. These trust account agreements specifically override the terms of the customer’s trust and instead force the customer to agree to modifications insisted upon by the financial institution. Almost unanimously, these changes include making all co-trustees have equal powers to make financial decisions regarding the trust. Imagine that! You have gone to the trouble of preparing a living trust plan that grants only limited powers to some co-trustees, such as approving distributions or handling certain paperwork. You specifically provided that these co-trustees do not have the power to write checks and drain your account. But the financial bureaucrats at the large institutions have given away this power to invade your account in the fine print of documents required for setting up the account…..for giving them custody of YOUR money…. Fine print which almost no one ever reads!

Well, we’ve read the fine print and presently are developing strategies for our clients to protect themselves from this massive bureaucratic overreach. Stuff like this happens all of the time. It isn’t enough that laws are constantly changing and that your life is constantly changing, but you also have to worry about other third party conduct that has the practical effect of upending your life. Why do you need a lifetime relationship with an estate planning law firm that will be constantly monitoring all kinds of changes that affect your plan? The question really is: How can you afford not to have such a relationship?

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