By Katina H. Pantazis, Esq.
In my experience, the goal for many of my clients in estate planning is to preserve accumulated wealth in an effort to provide security to their survivors. In this day in age of market instability and economic uncertainty, our survivors are going to need all the help we can give them.
Most revocable trusts are promoted solely for the purpose of avoiding probate. These “will substitutes” typically direct the successor Trustee to distribute the remaining trust assets to the named beneficiaries in a lump sum, free of trust. Although this approach offers protection from the expense and delay of probate, it does not protect beneficiaries from their creditors or even themselves.
One option to provide your beneficiaries with as much financial security as possible is not to give them unfettered control of their inheritance immediately upon your death. Rather, keep their inheritance in trust for their long term benefit. Give an independent trustee discretion to determine when and in what amount a distribution should be made. An independent trustee will provide or obtain professional portfolio management, which helps to avoid issues caused by your beneficiaries’ potential mismanagement of trust funds. Giving the trustee discretion to make, or not make, distributions, will also protect your beneficiaries from their creditors, including future ex-spouses, and even predators.
A discretionary distribution trust also offers you an opportunity to shape the behavior of younger beneficiaries by offering incentives for the achievement of certain goals. For instance, upon graduation from college, you can direct that the beneficiary receive a trust distribution to help with the purchase of a car or furniture for an apartment. You can also direct distributions of principal to begin when the beneficiary reaches retirement age. Of course, it is always advisable to include a provision for distributions in the event of a bona fide hardship or emergency.
You can use a discretionary distribution trust to pay tuition for grandchildren and more remote descendants, to pay a beneficiary’s health insurance premiums, deductible and out-of-pocket medical expenses, and to provide income replacement to the beneficiary for participation in employer sponsored medical and retirement plans.
You earned the wealth you have accumulated. You made sacrifices to save. You also exercised restraint in investing towards a better future for yourself and your loved ones. The final step in providing financial security to your loved ones is a simple one… asset protection provisions of your estate plan may be your most important legacy.
This article is intended for informational use only and is not for purposes of providing legal advice or association of a lawyer – client relationship.
Katina H. Pantazis, Esq.
Katina H. Pantazis, Esq. was born in Augusta, Georgia. She has had the opportunity to live in multiple states: Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, and Florida. Katina earned a Business degree from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, in December of 2004. She completed this degree early; knowing that law school was in her future she chose to take a year between college and law school working as a paralegal to gain some hands on experience. This skill set solidified her decision to become an attorney.
Katina earned her Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law in May of 2009. Law school allowed for many priceless experiences including a study abroad program in Spetses, Greece, where she studied comparative international law. As well as a third year internship with the Middle District of Florida Federal Public Defenders Office located in Tampa. However, the catalyst that landed Katina in the field of law she practices today was receiving the Elder Law Scholarship in her second year of law school. This was the beginning of her journey into estate planning. She immediately fell in love with the work and most importantly the clientele.
Katina has been practicing in Florida for over six years and has practiced as her own firm Katina Pantazis, P.A, for over two years. She practices out of the Villages office and works in estate planning and wealth preservation. Katina considers this her dream job — helping people secure their future, both for themselves and their loved ones.
Katina is also deeply involved in the community. She is a respected member of the Florida Bar, Marion County Bar Association, Lake County Bar Association, Sumter County Bar Association, and Rotary Club of The Villages. She also serves on the board of the Arnette House in Ocala, Florida and still active with her Sorority, Pi Beta Phi. She spends her free time participating in co-ed intramurals including flag football, basketball, soccer and volleyball. She also enjoys running, kickboxing, yoga and crossfit.
Areas of Practice:
Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Long-Term Care Planning