Dean Smith Made Good Use of Revocable Trusts

In life, he made history as one of the winningest coaches in the history of college sports. In death, he’s making headlines for the unprecedented generosity in his estate plan.

Dean Smith passed away as a legend, having coached the record-breaking UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels for many years. He scouted some of basketball’s biggest talents, including Michael Jordan. (Smith coached Jordan to a national championship in 1982.) His Last Will and Testament was bound to attract some attention, but one provision in particular has put him all over the headlines.

Smith left $200 to each of the 180 players he coached over the course of his career. Those small payouts add up to $36,000 in total — a rather grand gesture that one doesn’t typically find in any leader’s will.

Smith’s altruism isn’t the only notable fact here, though. As Bloomberg puts its, “Dean Smith’s generosity got a lot of press. His estate plan deserves some too.”

Those $200 gifts came not from Dean Smith’s will but, rather, from a revocable trust that he created as part of a large-scale estate plan. That was a smart move for a few reasons:

  • Smith was able to keep his estate details private. Wills are public, but trusts aren’t open to prying eyes. We only learned about the $200 gifts when the recipients posted pictures of the checks on social media — a very neat way for the modern world to learn about an older gentleman’s kind heart. Smith’s legacy is all the brighter because of it.
  • He could have changed his mind. Imagine that you’re about to give away an annual income’s worth of gifts to people you once knew. That’s a big gift. Might you want to keep an “exit door” open just in case you change your mind? Revocable trusts include just such an “out.” While we have no way of knowing whether Smith was interested in any kind of exit plan, it is helpful for others to know that revocable trusts are just that — revocable.
  • It didn’t take the place of his will. Smith’s trust is getting all the attention, but he had a Last Will and Testament too. That’s important because, even if trusts become your primary estate planning tools, they really are designed to complement — not replace — your will. A well-drafted estate plan takes both into account.

You may never have won a national championship, and you might struggle to think of 180 people to whom you’d like to send a couple of Benjamins, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t also benefit from a revocable trust as part of your estate plan. If you’d like to learn more about what a trust can do for you, call our Phoenix estate planning attorneys today. We’re here to help.


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