I am a huge fan of Glenn Beck’s radio show. I listen every morning and usually agree. But sometimes they blow it, and this humble blog is my only recourse. My previous posts have pointed out their errors on matters such as: the eligibility of Ted Cruz and the definition of “natural born citizen”; and an occasional hiccup evidencing lack of familiarity with guns (though he is generally good on that issue), for example the several times he urged listeners to “shoot to kill” in the context of self-defense, a mindset that clearly goes against the teachings of Thomas Aquinas to whom legitimate self-defense would not include specific intent to kill.
So what happened this morning? Glenn Beck said he thought estate planning with continuing trusts was a very bad thing and that assets should be given outright to kids. He gave as an example Ted Turner locking up some environmentally dear real estate for centuries, but severe restraints on alienation like that are an issue distinct from continuing purpose-built trusts with assets that can be turned over by a trustee. In fairness, Glenn admitted his opinion may suffer from a lack of expertise. It does.
I’m with Glenn as far as eliminating death taxes. But giving all assets outright to children? A trust is necessary to avoid court involvement if the child is a minor, and even adult children will almost always blow their inheritances within a very short time. Compare the descendants of the Rothschilds to those of the Vanderbilts and you will see that incentive trust planning is needed to avoid the perils of unearned wealth.
Besides, for most families, comprehensive estate planning these days is as much about avoiding income tax as it is avoiding death tax, through use of such techniques as the Clayton election.
To me, the biggest argument in favor of continuing trusts is that they are really the only way to transmit your values to succeeding generations. Glenn said he was against “the hand ruling from the grave” but wouldn’t it be nice if the Founders transmitted their firearm legacy? The militia ethic had seriously declined by the War of 1812, and of course is in pretty bad shape now. Relying on word of mouth alone is like playing the game of telephone, so now, hardly anyone speaks Constitution.