As we grow older, our ability to make sound money decisions may diminish. Last month's Morningstar financial conference addressed this issue. Harvard Economics Professor David Laibson pointed out the need for seniors to protect their assets not just from financial predators, but from themselves in the event of cognitive decline. With half of those over the age of 80 experiencing significant cognitive impairment, every senior needs to take this issue seriously.
A Living Trust (also known as a Revocable, or Intervivos Trust) is an effective precaution for seniors who want to safeguard their assets. A properly drafted and funded Living Trust holds your assets (with the exception of a few types of assets that should remain outside your Trust). You appoint a Trustee to manage the assets. You may be the initial Trustee, and designate a Successor Trustee to take over if disability strikes. Or you may appoint someone else to be the Trustee from the get-go. Your Trustee can be a trustworthy individual or a corporate Trustee. In any event, if you become incapable of managing your money and your financial well-being is imperiled, your Trustee is authorized to step in on your behalf.