The money in a Trust is not a gift belonging to the Beneficiary. The opportunity the Trust creates for the Beneficiary is the gift.” – Kathy Brown
Many have the misconception that the money in a Trust belongs to the beneficiary. It only belongs to the beneficiary when the Grantor stipulates exactly that; otherwise, it belongs to the Trust. The Trust is a support structure for opportunity.
When introducing the Trust to the beneficiary it is important to put the focus on the opportunity, not its limitation. Limitations bring focus to what is unavailable rather than what is available. If the Trustee introduces the Trust as an opportunity it opens the mind to what is possible. The pathways laid out in the Trust for the beneficiary will be less of a limitation and more of a ‘what if’ scenario.
The Grantor has gifted an opportunity to the beneficiary, which is to maintain or improve their lifestyle. In either case, the money is just the tool to make this opportunity possible. The Grantor usually puts in place specifications for this opportunity, often related to health, education, or maintenance. This gift can create a foundation for life’s basic needs, allowing the beneficiary to step out of survival and step into ‘creativity with opportunity’.
A client of mine had the opportunity to write several books on his particular area of expertise because of being a beneficiary of a Trust. The Trust took care of his basic needs, allowing him to bring to fruition his dream, becoming a published author.
Another client of mine had the opportunity to bring in-home care for her mother’s ailing health needs. The Trust allowed her the opportunity to continue growing her graphic design company while still tending to her mother.
Consider the all too typical facts as set out in the case of Spencer v. Di Cola, 2014 App. ((1st) 121173, 2014 Ill app LEXIS 289 (1st Dist. 5/1/14), rehearing denied, August 18, 2014, modified on denial of rehearing, 2014 Ill. App. (1st) 121585, 16 N.E.3d 1 (August 21, 2014)). If the Trustee had introduced the Trust as a ‘gift of opportunity’ and was open to on-going collaboration regarding the gift, the beneficiaries might have had a different perspective and not tried to remove the sitting Trustee. Could that lawsuit have been avoided by on-going collaboration? Could they have found an acceptable solution? We will never know.
By looking at the Trust as an opportunity instead of its finite value, you discover the true essence of the gift from the Grantor.