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What are the upsides to an incentive trust?

You're thinking of drafting an incentive-based trust. You've even taken the wise step of talking it over with your heirs -- a son and a daughter -- in advance. You know that having the conversation early often staves off disputes and disagreements in the future.

The problem is simple: Your kids hate it. They just want the money with no strings attached. They see the incentive trust as a way for you to manipulate them.

You don't like the disagreement, but you're also sticking to your guns. You feel strongly that it's in their best interests, whether they like it or not. So, what do you tell them?

First off, explain that you also want them to get the money. You just want to motivate them along the way. You're not trying to hold anything back.

Rhymes and reasons

For instance, perhaps the trust would give each child enough to realistically retire at any age. If you pass away when your son is 40 and your daughter is 37, do you really want them to just check out professionally?

Maybe you want to set the trust up so that it matches the money they earn until they turn 55. If your son makes $100,000 per year, he gets another $100,000 from the trust. If your daughter brings in $200,000, she gets another $200,000 every year. When they turn 55, the rest of the money pays out, ensuring that they get the same amount in the end, an equal split. They determine when they get it by how hard they work. They still get a relatively early retirement, but not at 37 years old.

This also provides incentive to keep working. A year with $0 earned is a year with $0 from the trust.

You could also explain that you want them to pick careers they love, regardless of the money. For instance, some people set up trusts to provide for people who work in the arts.

It's hard to be a musician. Many extremely talented people don't make enough to live off of. The trust could reward your daughter for pursing her dream of being a painter or your son for writing novels.

Supporting their dreams

The exact art isn't important -- you set the trust up to help support your kids as long as they work in those fields. You're not trying to manipulate them or force them to pick certain careers. You're giving them a reason to keep working at their dreams by showing that the trust will pay the bills as long as they do it.

As you can see, your intentions are good. In many cases, explaining the end goals helps children to see the benefits and come around to the idea. While talking it over, be sure you know all of the legal options you have to set things up in exactly the way you desire.

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