Should I Have a Trust?

September 20, 2018

Filed under: Estate Planning,Financial,Special Needs Trusts — Alexis @ 1:40 PM

I hear this question a lot when I teach seminars.  If you’ve been to a seminar, you have heard me say that “trusts come in many flavors.”  There are all sorts of trusts, and whether you should have one depends entirely on your situation.  I would say that about one-third of my clients need some type of trust.  And for the other two-thirds, the cost simply isn’t warranted.

Here are some reasons you might need one:

(1) you have a special needs child or grandchild or sibling that you want to leave money to,

(2) you want your family to avoid probate,

(3) you have a complex distribution pattern that you want followed after your death, or

(4) you have over $1 million in assets and you want to do estate tax planning.

Here are some reasons you might not need one:

(1) you don’t have a special needs child, grandchild, or sibling,

(2) you don’t have a taxable estate (or you do but don’t mind paying taxes), or

(3) your assets are fairly simple and you’ve named beneficiaries on each of them.

These two lists are by no means exhaustive, they just show you some typical scenarios.  The only way to really know whether you need a trust is to meet with an elder law attorney who can review your assets, your family tree, and your wishes, and from there determine what the best course of action will be to transfer those assets to your family after your death, with the least amount of trouble.

Please call us so that we can help you determine whether or not you need a trust, and to make the inheritance process as easy as possible for your family.



Elder Care Workshop Series at Norwell Public Library

March 7, 2017


Getting older? Taking care of someone who is? Come to this three-part series to learn some helpful tips from local Elder Services professionals.

Wednesday, March 8:

“Who Can Help Me?”

Find out how to access elder services in your community.

Presented by Susan Curtin, Director at Norwell Council on Aging.


“Elder Law 101”

Get to know the basics of preparing for your future.

Presented by Attorney Alexis B. Levitt.


Wednesday, March 15:

“Learn to Speak Alzheimereze”

Discover tips to work with a person who is changing before your eyes and to learn to speak ‘Alzheimereze.’

Presented by Alzheimer’s coach Beverly Moore.


Wednesday, March 29: 

“Hospital to Home”

Understand how to make a successful transition from hospital to home.

Presented by Kim Bennett, LSW, of Visiting Angels, Inc.


“Do I Need Palliative or Hospice Care?”

Learn about the difference in important care choices.

Presented by Catherine Harrington, BA, RN, of Norwell VNA and Hospice.


***Workshops will be held at the Norwell Public Library from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Registration is requested, but not required via email at or calling 781.740.7269.


This series is sponsored by the Law Office of Alexis B. Levitt, the Norwell Council on Aging, and the Norwell Public Library.




Set Up a Self-Settled Special Needs Trust for Your Child Now

November 9, 2008

If you have already established a “third-party special needs trust” for your child – that’s the one that will receive her share of your estate when you pass away – congratulations.  Now it’s time to set up a “self-settled” special needs trust.  This trust will be a depository for any of your child’s own assets.  “But my child doesn’t have anything,” you say.  But she could in the future.  Perhaps a relative will leave her something, or perhaps she will receive a personal injury settlement.  

For reasons that no one can explain, Congress mandated that a trust holding a disabled person’s own assets (self-settled) can only be established by a parent, grandparent, guardian, or a court, and not by the disabled individual herself.  If your child comes into funds in the future and you and her grandparents are not able to meet with an attorney to draft a trust, she will be forced to use the court or a guardian, both of which add unnecessary costs to the process. 

Also, as you may know, SSI has strict rules about how long an SSI recipient can hold onto funds before they are considered assets and threaten her monthly benefits.  If your child receives some money and does not have a self-settled special needs trust already set up, then you will need to hustle to draft it, sign it, obtain a TIN from the IRS, open an account at the bank, and deposit the proceeds – perhaps all within a matter of days.  

Instead, it is easier to set up the trust now and it will be ready and waiting when it comes time to fund it.  If you are reading this article, then you are in the mode of putting your child’s legal documents in order.  Have your disability law attorney draft a self-settled special needs trust now while you are thinking about it.  You don’t need to fund it now, all you need is to have the signed document in your file.  That way it will be immediately available for your child’s use should she ever come into some money of her own. 

A Family Only Needs One Special Needs Trust

November 6, 2008

Have you set up a Special Needs Trust (SNT) to receive your disabled child’s share of your estate when you die?  Are there other family members who might also want to leave something to your disabled child, for example grandparents or a doting uncle?  Or even non-family members, such as god-parents or very close friends?

If so, be sure to tell them about your trust – there is no need for them to spend time and money asking a lawyer to draft another special needs trust as part of their own estate planning package.  That person’s attorney will simply need to see a copy of your special needs trust and she will reference it in your family member’s will. 

While it may feel awkward, you will save your family time and money by mentioning to them that you have already established a trust for your child and that they can direct inheritances into it rather than drafting separate trusts with their own attorneys.