By Matthew A. Quick
A Trust is a legal arrangement where one person (the “Settlor” or “Grantor”) gives legal title of property to another (the “Trustee”) to hold for the use and benefit of a third-person (the “Beneficiary”). The Settlor is the owner of the property that is to be placed into the Trust, thus becoming Trust Property. Trust Property can be money, stock, real estate or any other form of real or personal property. The Trustee is the person or entity (such as a bank) that agrees to maintain or invest the Trust Property for the use and benefit of the Beneficiary. It is common for a Settlor to also be the Trustee, meaning the person who creates the Trust maintains or invests the Trust Property for the use and benefit of the Beneficiary (so no one else needs to be nominated or hired as Trustee so long as the Settlor/Trustee is able to act). The Beneficiary is the person or entity for whom the Trust is created.
To create a Trust, the Settlor transfers ownership of property to a Trustee based upon certain terms and conditions that are listed in a Trust Declaration. The terms and conditions of a Trust Declaration are instructions that the Trustee is bound to follow in maintaining or investing the Trust Property.
In practice, when a Settlor is also going to be the Trustee, the Settlor will transfer property to himself as Trustee and select a person or entity to succeed him. Upon death or disability of the Settlor/Trustee, his successor will then become Trustee and follow the terms and conditions of the Trust.
There are three main reasons to employ the use of a Trust. First, a Trust keeps the Settlor’s estate from having to endure probate, as a Trust outlives the Settlor and can distribute the Settlor’s estate after his death. Second, a Trust can be used to gain significant tax-saving advantages by reducing the taxable portion of an estate. Last, a Trust can shelter property from creditors, loved-ones who cannot handle large amounts of money, and the government. Consider a Trust that regulates the amount of funds children receive or a Supplemental Needs Trust, which is a Trust used when one needs to retain eligibility for government benefits (specific trust arrangements will be discussed in future issues).
Trusts are a great tool to achieve one’s future planning objectives. If you seek greater control and protection of your property and its distribution, a Trust is the ideal utility to include in your estate plan.
-Seasonal Affective Disorder-
Now that the holidays have come and gone it can be hard to believe there is still a stretch of winter yet to endure—the cold, the snow and the bleak skyline. Referred to as the “winter blues,” it is common to feel the effects of the winter season on an emotional level. Moods may decline, frustration levels may rise, and a general sense of sadness may seem to set in. Symptoms of the winter blues tend to persist during the cold, dark months and dissipate with the arrival of the spring season. As with most aspects of mental health, it is important to differentiate between the experience of one or two symptoms during a brief period of time, and several signs and symptoms that persist on a more long-term basis. While some may experience a lighter level of the winter blues, others may be coping with a more serious condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (referred to as “SAD”).
According to the National Mental Health Association, SAD affects more than half a million people who live in environments of variable climate change. Common factors linked to the onset of SAD include sunlight depravation that alters our circadian rhythms (or internal biological clock) and an increase in the hormone melatonin (which is tied to symptoms of depression and actually rises during long-term exposure to darker environments). Also, a family history of depression may lead to a genetic predisposition for SAD and other depression-related symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of SAD include frequent changes in mood, feelings of fatigue or apathy, and an overall decline in self-esteem. There can also be shifts in sleeping and eating habits, as well as a decline in social interest. Previously enjoyed activities that do not inspire the same sense of happiness can also be a noticeable symptom of SAD. Differentiating itself from other depression-related concerns, symptoms of SAD are relieved with the change in season and tend to return around the same time the following year.
Treatments for SAD include light-exposure therapy, melatonin-suppressing medications, and talk therapy with a qualified mental health professional. For anyone experiencing mild symptoms of SAD or winter blues, there are several ways to alleviate your symptoms at home. By taking a long walk once a day, you are exposed to fresh air and daylight that are key factors to the biological components of your symptoms. Also, increasing the levels of light in your home (via windows or additional light sources) can be extremely helpful. Talking to a trusted family member or friend can be very beneficial in creating an understanding of your thoughts, feelings and actions, which is important for both yourself and those who are close to you. In addition, setting time aside once a day to do something you enjoy, whether it is reading a book or going to the gym, can be crucial to increasing your overall sense of well-being during these long, dreary months.
If you observe significant signs and symptoms of SAD over the course of several winter seasons, it is recommended to discuss these findings with your doctor. Given that our mental health is equally as important as our physical health, awareness and appropriate decision-making in this area can greatly impact your friends, your family, and your future.
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Carly Quick is a licensed clinical social worker who practices at Lake Bluff Middle School in the northern Chicago suburbs and invites any questions or comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on SAD can be found at www.nmha.org.
Federal Deposit Insurance Coverage (“FDIC”) Has Been Extended. The standard insurance amount for FDIC of $250,000 was set to expire January 1, 2010, but has been extended until December 31, 2013. On January 1, 2014, the amount will return to $100,000 for standard insurance. The $250,000 amount is permanent, thus will remain viable after January 1, 2014, for certain retirement accounts, which includes IRAs. For more information on the amount and applicability of Federal Deposit Insurance Coverage, please visit www.fdic.gov.
Michigan Enacts Smoking Prohibition. Beginning May 1, 2010, it will be unlawful to burn any matter or substance that contains a tobacco product in an enclosed, indoor public area. The new Act, which can be found after it takes effect at MCL 333.12601, et seq., and MCL 333.12905, et seq., will continue to allow smoking at cigar bars, tobacco specialty retail stores, and the gaming area of casinos, but only if these entities are in existence at the time the law takes effect.
I hope this issue of The Estate has been helpful. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns, or to schedule a complimentary consultation. As a service to all current and prospective clients, I travel at no charge to all meetings and consultations throughout Michigan and Illinois. In addition, informational sessions regarding special needs planning and estate planning are provided free to groups of any size. Please let me know if there is any way I can help.