How Revocable Trusts Are Unlike Haircuts

August 23, 2010

I can’t stand getting haircuts.

It all started when I was in my mid-teens, and my mother took me to her hairdresser.  The gentleman took one look at the back of my head and called over his colleagues.  Within seconds, other hairdressers as well as shampooers, sweepers, cashiers, etc. came by to look at the back of my head.  For awhile, no one told me what was going on and I feared the worst.  However, I eventually found out that all the commotion was because I had a “double cowlick”.

Since then, I have had plenty of haircutting strife.  The jokester barber (“Tried to make the basketball team, but I didn’t survive the cut”, “Want a haircut, or them all cut?”, “I’m the connoisseur of coiffure”, etc.).  A barber joyously discovering my bald spot.  The father and daughter barbers arguing over my head in a foreign language regarding her lack of understanding about what sideburns are.  It’s generational too – my son screamed and cried at his first several haircuts.

I suppose part of the problem is that haircuts are one of our few personal decisions that we make that are subject to the views and opinions of those around us.  If you buy shoes that turn out to be terrible, you can hide them or even return them.  Not so with the dreaded haircut.

During my last haircut (“Who cut the back last time?  It is too uneven!”), I began to think about this distasteful lack of privacy yet again when I remembered the release of information regarding George Steinbrenner’s will (such as in Julie Garber, Esq.’s excellent blog), which was recently filed in Tampa, FL.

In fact, an internet search, as well as many estate planning books, provide clauses contained in the wills of many deceased celebrities.  Easy access to these documents is an unfortunate side effect of the public nature of the probate process, especially for the families of the rich and famous.  As a result, for years, many attorneys and other commentators have instead debated that the “revocable trust” (also known as “living trust” or “inter vivos trust”) is the better primary estate planning instrument.

When used as the main document, these trusts are created during your lifetime and enable a trustee to hold the property for the benefit of the beneficiary.  Typically, you are the trustee of this trust while you are alive, and you name successor trustees in the instrument.  You can also be the beneficiary with at least one other person (most often your spouse).  Any of these named persons can be changed during your lifetime, given the revocable nature of the trust, but usually become irrevocable upon your death.  At this time, a complimentary “pour-over will”, created at the same time as the revocable trust, transfers the remainder of your assets into the now irrevocable trust.

I will further discuss benefits, disadvantages, and mechanics in future posts.  However, in terms of our privacy discussion here, the main advantage is that your estate avoids the costs, time and public nature of the probate process because the trust does not ever need to be submitted to your locality.  No publicity, no commentary, all private.

Now, if only my barber could provide this kind of advantage…

 How Revocable Trusts Are Unlike Haircuts


Scott R. Zucker, Esq. is the owner of The Zucker Law Firm PLLC, located just outside the Capital Beltway in Annandale, within five miles of the City of Fairfax, the county seat of beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia. The firm focuses mainly on estate planning services for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania clientele, and seeks to do so in an affordable and approachable way. People interested in learning more can contact Scott by phone or email.

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