Why Harper Lee Should Have Used a Trust in her Estate Plan

Nelle Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died in February of this year at age 89. She may have written her famous novel 50 years ago, but according to the findings of Celebrity Net Worth, Lee was still earning an average of $9,000 in royalties a day. Trusts have benefits for estate of all sizes, but we will give you 3 reasons why we think Nelle Harper Lee in particular should have used a revocable living trust.

1. Privacy from the public

Even though Lee was an exceptionally private person, her probate will be public if she did not create a trust. Even if Lee had a will, the will would be filed with the court and considered public. Every finance report and every income statement will be filed with the court and be considered a public document that anyone can go and look at. Only a trust can transfer property and assets privately. The trustee of a trust only needs to notify the court that the trust exists and then can proceed to manage the assets in the trust privately.

2. Asset retention and protection

Lee's continuing royalties mean that large sums of money are still going into her estate after her death. That means that Lee's heirs or beneficiaries will receive a large check periodically outright and unprotected. However, assets in trust remain protected from lawsuits and creditors because the assets are not in the individual's name.

3. Federal tax avoidance

For those who decease in 2016, anything above 5.45 million will be subjected to the federal estate tax. Because Lee has a large estate, her heirs can probably expect that federal tax to be at the 40% rate. Tax avoidance strategies are a big reason more people are choosing to make a living trust the keystone of their estate plan.

To review these lessons and others, read about why Whitney Houston should also have used a trust in her estate plan. For more information about how you can find the estate plan that offers you the protections listed above, contact us here.

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