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Wills and trusts carry legal protections

Aaron Hernandez died under a cloud of dishonor, committing suicide after one court convicted him of murder and leaving his estate in debt to the tune of at least $1 million. However, there is evidence that some of his final acts may have been to protect his 5-year-old daughter. As many Michigan parents use wills and trusts to establish a secure future for their children, it seems Hernandez may have attempted the same, although his motives are in question.

The former NFL player had earned just $9 million of his $40 million Patriots contract when he was arrested and convicted of murder. Soon after, he took his own life in prison. The special representative of the athlete's estate says that, despite that paycheck, Hernandez's debts exceed his assets by nearly $2 million. However, Hernandez created an irrevocable trust for his daughter, the contents of which are confidential by law.

Also, because the assets titled to an irrevocable trust are no longer in the possession of Hernandez, they cannot be used to pay the mounting debt of the estate, including taxes, lawsuits and legal fees. The trustee of the trust reminded the court that the beneficiary of the trust is a child with no other assets. Nevertheless, if the court decides Hernandez created the trust to protect his wealth from known creditors, the court has the right to undo the trust.

Properly prepared and funded wills and trusts can provide security for loved ones for generations. Trusts are preferred by those in Michigan who want their assets to avoid the public nature of probate and to have certain protections from potential creditors. Preparing such documents under the guidance of an experienced attorney can ensure they are created appropriately.

Source: Boston Herald, "Aaron Hernandez arranged trust that hid wealth beyond reach of creditors", Laurel J. Sweet, Nov. 28, 2017

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