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Can an estate plan include planned giving?

Gifts can be an important part of an estate plan. In fact, an attorney that focuses on various types of revocable and irrevocable trusts might recommend including planned giving in a trust’s documentation.

A recent article profiling the revocable living trust created by actress Farrah Fawcett provides context. Fawcett’s plan directed $4.5 million of the trust’s assets -- valued close to $70 million at her death in 2009 -- to be used for the support of her son and an additional fund allocated for the support of her father. The trust also directed that some assets should be gifted to specific beneficiaries. Finally, the trust also directed that all of Fawcett’s artwork would go to her alma mater, the University of Texas.

However, a dispute arose over when Fawcett’s former boyfriend, Ryan O’Neal, claimed that one portrait of Fawcett, painted by Andy Warhol, belonged to him. The portrait was actually a second original.

O’Neal claimed that Warhol had painted the second portrait in gratitude for setting up an introduction with Fawcett. O’Neal further claimed that he had possessed the portrait for nearly twenty years, but ultimately gave it to Fawcett for safekeeping when his new girlfriend became upset over it. The University of Texas disagreed and sued to obtain possession of the second original. A jury ultimately determined that O’Neal was the true owner, but only after significant time and expense had been lost in a court battle.

Is there a moral to this story? An estate-planning attorney understands the importance of specifically titling assets in a trust and correctly designating beneficiaries. If a grantor wants to make gifts during his or her lifetime from a revocable trust, an attorney can also devise ways for an individual to make gifts up to the annual exclusion amount each year. 

Source: American Bar Association, “Power of Attorney,” copyright 2015, ABA

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