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I’m a Trust Fund Baby!


I’ve been asking my parents, who are in their late 70’s, for years to set up some sort of trust or will but they have always insisted it was morbid and ignored me. Later this month, my father is undergoing an extensive surgery and he called me last night and asked if I had a minute to chat. He wanted to let me know that he met with an attorney and set up a trust. ‘Kiddo, I know I don’t have much, but I don’t want you to suffer like me.’

Why the change of heart? My grandmother died several years ago and her estate, as tiny as it is, has not been settled. She owns a small cabin in the woods. Half the kids want to sell. The other half want to keep. My dad said he didn’t care which upset both sides. Even though there is very little money involved, the fighting has been awful, and relationships have been destroyed.

My parents don’t have a lot of money, no retirement, and very little equity in their home. So why did I push so hard for a trust (or at the very least, a will)? First, because California requires probate unless you have a trust. This drags out the difficulty during an already difficult time. And second (and most important), because I want to honor what they want to do with what they have. I don’t care who gets what, just tell me what you want me to do. What would they like us to do with their house? Their cars? The contents of their house? What about his business? The attorney suggested we all get together and mark the items we want in their home and have discussions on things that are wanted by more than one child. While none of us are the money-grubbing types, we are sentimental, and I could see us struggling to figure out who got mom or dad’s wedding rings or my dad’s pipe collection that smells just like him when you open it. I want to honor their wishes and I can’t do that if I don’t know what they are.

We talked for an hour as he carefully explained what was in the trust and how he would like things handled. I felt so much better knowing what he wanted.

My husband and I set up a trust over ten years ago even though we were deep in debt. In the crazy off chance that we both died, we wanted our families to know exactly what to do with our kids. We also made sure we carried enough life insurance so the kids wouldn’t be a financial burden and outlined exactly how the money should be spent. Morbid? Yup. But a loving thing for parents to do? Yup. We revisit and revise when needed and we still carry enough life insurance to ensure they aren’t a financial burden. We’ll do this until the youngest is out of the house.

You don’t have to be old to write a will. If you are an adult, you should have one. It’s one of the best ways to show people you love them. Make their burden light by not asking them to guess your wishes.


  • Reply Steve |

    I always enjoy your posts. You are an excellent writer with the gift of bringing the reader right into your situation.

    I second your thoughts about estate planning. I too have seen families torn apart by people arguing over money when the final wishes of the deceased were less than clear. We did a will when our first child was born which we updated recently.

    It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to create an estate plan. I used Quicken WillMaker & Trust which cost less than $100 and a few hours of our time. I printed the docs out and went to our credit union to have them witnessed and notarized.

    Please do this as a gift to your kids! Avoid future family squabbles and make your wishes clear now!

  • Reply Sarah |

    Also, in California, Probate fees are mandated by law and it costs a fortune! Much cheaper, easier and quicker if you have a trust!

    Good for your dad!

      • Reply Sarah |

        California probate fees – not from an official website but I’m sure they are probably correct.

        4% of the first $100k
        3% of the next $100k
        2% of the next 800k

        On a million dollars, that is $23k.

        My husband’s parents have both passed away. We took care of their estates. The lawyer bills totaled maybe $1k each. We did all the calling/footwork. The lawyer only had to create the official papers that showed my husband was the trustee and then we took it from there.

          • Abby |

            CA atty here. Those fees are not paid to the state. They are the fees paid to the executor/administrator of the estate and to that person’s attorney.

So, what do you think ?