In the nineteenth century, people traveled the country selling tonics that were guaranteed to cure all the ailments of humankind. In the twenty first century, the “snake oil salesmen” have been replaced with individuals making professional presentations on estate planning. At the conclusion of these presentations, they offer, for many hundreds of dollars, kits that will show you how to conduct estate planning without the expense of an attorney or tax professional. One such group extols the virtues of a device called a charitable remainder trust (CRT). They tell you how to establish it following a boilerplate template which they provide. The CRT allows you to make tax deductible contributions during your lifetime, and upon your death, pass the CRT to a family foundation managed by your children. This will allow the assets to avoid estate taxes and probate. The presenter purports this to be a cost effective way to pass on your assets to your children. All of what is said in the presentations concerning CRTs is true. What the presenter does not say about CRTs is that distributions from the family foundation can only be made to recognized charities. In other words, your children will own the estate, but they will not have access to it. These devices work well for a small percentage of the population, but for the majority of people they will not serve the desired purpose.
a. Discuss the presenter’s ethics by not telling the full story. Keep in mind that what the presenter says is true, but does not reveal the whole truth.
b. If these seminars are the modern day version of the snake oil salesmen of the nineteenth century, who should you look to instead for estate planning advice?