In recent years, more media segments and advertisements have focused on estate planning. Terms like “living trusts” and “creditor protection trusts” are thrown about but are often not properly explained. Even more confusingly, numerous companies offer form will and trust documents, promising to save you time and money over hiring a lawyer. With all of the information available, what do you need to know to plan for the future? What is the difference between a will and a trust, and which one is right for you?
A will defines your beneficiaries and the guardian of any minor children, sets up a trust for incapacitated and minor beneficiaries, and states who will administer your estate. Upon death, one’s estate is typically settled through probate. A will has its place in an estate plan, for at times it is helpful to have court supervision of an estate.
On the other hand, a living trust avoids probate, which can be a lengthy and expensive estate settlement process. In a trust, you in essence probate your estate during your lifetime. You set forth specific provisions regarding your estate, and you may serve as your own trustee. Living trusts are revocable, portable and easily amended. While a trust may cost slightly more than a will, it can save estate administration expenses and taxes.
Estate planning can be complicated, and poor planning can have drastic consequences. In some cases, a simple will may be sufficient, while in others, a trust (or trusts) may be required to protect your assets and family. An experienced attorney will provide a personalized review of your circumstances and insure your goals are fully met. If the time has come for you to plan for the future, I encourage you to seek an attorney you can trust, and I invite you to contact me to schedule a free estate planning consultation.