Friday, March 4, 2016

Will vs Living Trust

In essence, a will provides instruction as to what should happen with your assets at the point of your death. The will dictates who should receive your assets. A will DOES NOT avoid probate. Keep in mind, if you have assets in different states, the probate process will need to take place within each state jurisdiction. Each state may vary in its law in regards to estate law. Probate also includes legal fees, administrative fees, court fees, and executor fees. In most instances, probate files are public information in order to encourage the heirs of the decedent to come forward and request a distribution from the estate. This creates an opportunity where you truly expose yourself to will contests.
There are certain financial instruments that do not require probate. These are common financial vehicles that are utilized quite often. They fall under the category of jointly-owned property which allows you to name your beneficiary without the need of a will. This includes life insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k)s, and annuities. One should be careful with ensuring they name a valid beneficiary. It has to be clearly stated and a secondary beneficiary should be named in the event the primary beneficiary passes. Also, be aware if a minor is named as the beneficiary. The courts may insist on guardianship proceedings for the minor until they reach majority age.
What then is a revocable living trust? It is an estate planning tool which can be changed during the lifetime of the decedent. It avoids probate, prevents court intervention and control over the specified assets within the trust, organizes all of your assets into a single estate planning vehicle, holds validity in all states, and avoids probate in all states. With a will, the moment you pass away, your assets are now positioned to be distributed. With a living trust, the assets are distributed based on the guidelines you set forth within the trust. You can decide whom should acquire the property outlined within the trust, at what age, and under what circumstances. To start the process of obtaining a living trust, contact an estate lawyer in New York today to go over all of the various nuances involved with estate planning.

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