n the drafting work we perform for our clients, we often use various types of trusts. There are many things a trust can do including helping to address issues related to incapacity, protecting your assets from creditors, and avoiding or minimizing hassles related to the probate process after you die. But one aspect of trusts that is often underappreciated is how a trust can be used to maintain a certain degree of control over what happens to your assets even after you have passed. To put it another way, when you leave assets to your heirs outright you will have no control over what happens to those assets down the road.
By the time Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose in August 1962 she had been divorced three times and she left no children. As far as we know Monroe did not create a trust while she was alive. Therefore all of her assets passed according to the brief three page Will she executed in January 1961 shortly before her divorce from the playwright Arthur Miller. That instrument left some small bequests for a number of individuals including Monroe’s half-sister, her secretary, her mother, and several friends. But ultimately 75% of Monroe’s remaining assets were to be distributed outright to Lee Strasberg, the famed acting coach.