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How trusts can be used to preserve family wealth

After people in Florida create an estate plan, it may need to be updated regularly. Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died in early 2019 and had a will that was dated Sept. 20, 2018. There was a revocable trust from 2017. The proximity of these dates to her death is not unusual if it is understood that she probably would have been revising them regularly.

Radziwill did her primary estate planning using a trust, but she also used her will for elements of the plan that could not be executed with a trust. Since a will is public, unlike a trust, it is possible to get some insight into her estate planning.

Radziwill was from a wealthy family, and much of the family wealth was managed with trusts. In the will, Radziwill makes reference to one trust that her mother set up for her. There is another trust from 1975. Radziwill's sister is the grantor, and Radziwill is the trustee along with a bank. Radziwill had what is known as a special power of appointment, and she used this to put the principal into a trust for her daughter. A special power of appointment gives a person limited power over a trust and thus helps preserve the family's original intent for it.

There are other ways that trusts can be designed to control what a beneficiary can and cannot do. For example, some trusts are set up to only allow distributions at a certain time or at the discretion of the trustee. Trusts are also not necessarily just for the wealthy: A family who has a child with special needs can set up a trust that provides for the child without preventing the child from receiving government benefits. As another example, a trustee might manage distributions for an heir with substance abuse issues.

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