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What can giraffes teach us about estate planning?

You thought your estate planning lawyer was thinking about boring legal documents, financial figures, taxes and probate litigation all day, didn't you? Not exactly. Estate planning attorneys need inspiration too, and sometimes that involves turning to the animal kingdom for ideas. A recent article published on the Wealth Management website highlights the way estate planners can learn a lot from our long-necked, knock-kneed, mammalian brother, the giraffe -- especially when it comes to stepparents and the inheritances left behind to children.

Let's consider a typical situation. You remarried later in life, long after your kids grew up. Your new husband wants to leave his estate behind to you, with the remainder (after you pass away) left for his kids. He creates a trust that identifies you as the beneficiary, and it identifies his children as successor beneficiaries. Essentially, they'll get what's left of the trust after you pass away.

The issue is, what if your stepchildren don't like the way you're spending your money. Perhaps they don't like you going on vacations overseas, buying a new car, or giving gifts to your children. Your stepchildren might start giving you a very hard time legally, causing much stress and heartache.

Here's where the giraffe comes in. As the primary beneficiary of your husband's trust, you may have what's called "the power of appointment." This will allow you to assign specific trust assets upon your death to other parties who are not your stepchildren. In some cases, you can completely disinherit your stepchildren with the power of appointment.

In the recent Wealth Management article, this was the suggestion: Convene a meeting to tell your stepchildren you plan on appointing as much of the trust remainder as possible to a baby giraffe at the zoo. Tell them that -- since much of this money would have been theirs -- you'd like to give them the honor of naming the giraffe. Problem solved. Your stepchildren will likely change their tune very quickly and stop complaining about the way you spend your money, and you can go about your life as usual again.

Tennessee inheritance attorneys will usually have a lot of interesting estate planning strategies up their sleeves. Sometimes, all that's required to solve a problem is a change in perspective. In circumstances like the one above, we can turn to the animal kingdom for support.

Source: Wealth Management, "The Power of the Giraffe in Estate Planning," Robert T. Napier, Feb. 14, 2017

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