Selecting a Trustee

So you’ve decided it’s time to do some estate planning and you’ve talked with you estate planning attorney. And the lawyer asks who you want to serve as trustee. A friend or family member? Your bank or a trust company? Here’s a helpful article on some non-legal issues to think about when selecting a trustee.

The lawyer walks you through some of the pros and cons of each option – a friend or family member probably won’t expect to be paid for their service, but they may not know anything about investments or administering the trust for you and your family, so they could jeopardize your financial legacy to your descendants. A bank or trust company will usually serve for a fee of 1%/year of assets under management and they have professional investment and advising services included (so you’ll be getting a good return on investment and monthly or quarterly financial statements), but they might not want real estate or closely held (and non-diversified) business interests or other assets in the trust. And banks and trust companies often change through mergers and other business deals over the years, not to mention the internal turn over of trust officers and employees that you actually work with.

Even if you don’t set up a trust, the lawyer will ask a similar question about your will (who’s your executor?), your living will and your financial and medical powers of attorney (who’s your agent/attorney in fact?). Who’s going to be making decisions on your behalf? Who do you trust to handle your last affairs and settle your estate? The law doesn’t provide many answers, but a good estate planning lawyer can walk you through your options, and help you select the person or institution best suited for your unique situation and your needs. If I can help you on your estate planning journey or answer any other questions, please give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me ( for a convenient appointment with my firm, Johnson Law KC LLC.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.


Gun Trusts: Inheriting Firearms

The NYT has this interesting article about gun trusts. A gun trust allows an individual to buy or give certain firearms or paraphernalia  to the next generation. Gun trusts aren’t widely used for most common firearms (antiques, pistols, revolvers, rifles, or shotguns), but are a useful tool for more exotic firearms and accessories (machine guns, silencers, and other items). As the article notes, they’re a perfectly legal, if mostly unknown, way to buy, own, or pass on firearms.

If you have questions about a gun trust or other estate planning, asset protection, or business succession issues, please call (913-707-9220) or email me ( at your convenience and my firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, will be happy to serve your legal needs.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.

Preparing Your Kids for an Inheritance

The WSJ/Barron’s has this fascinating article about the new $5.25 million per person lifetime gift tax exemption that Congress passed as part of the deal to avert the fiscal cliff. But the question that arises, especially as some young, wealthy heirs and heiresses’ antics grace the tabloid and Internet headlines: can a child properly handle their inheritance? If you give your child $5 million, will they save and invest it wisely, or will they spend it frivolously and waste your hard-earned wealth and financial legacy to them? This age-old issue is nothing new – there’s a non-tax reason that custodian bank accounts exist for minors, that trusts are popular, that savings bonds, CDs, and 529 college savings accounts exist – parents and grandparents need to be able to shepherd the money their children and grandchildren will receive. Yes, a gift is giving away money without formal strings attached – not reserving some right to take it back if a financial rainy day comes along, if your child wastes the money on things you don’t approve of, or if the child turns out not to have any financial or investing sense. But legal techniques exist to help protect the gift while your child learns how to work with their inheritance.

If the economic downtown hit your portfolio like high tide hitting a beautifully crafted sand castle on the beach (as it impacted most people’s hard-earned investments, savings, and home equity), or if you’re still working to build up wealth as the economy slowly recovers, you may be looking at smaller gifts for family members. Maybe  you anticipate giving tens or hundreds of thousands to loved ones, not millions. The same principle still applies – can you child or grandchild handle getting a check for $5,000, $10,000, $100,000?

Parents and grandparents need to talk with their children and grandchildren about money, investing, saving, and inheritances. It may not be an easy or fun talk and it might be awkward at first, but it’s a lot easier to discuss now than when you’re gravely ill or when your family is trying to clean up a messy estate after you’ve died. Look for some tips on how to inherit and handling an inheritance soon on this blog. In the meantime, if I can help you or your family with your estate planning, small business, or asset protection needs, give me a call (913-707-9220) or email me ( At Johnson Law KC LLC, we’re here to serve your needs – now and for many years to come.

(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.