If you want to keep your estate planning simple, you might be considering just having a will. You’re familiar with trusts, but you think they’re only for very wealthy people or those with complicated family situations. Why spend the time and money creating a trust?
There are some distinct advantages to trusts and a number of different kinds of trusts to choose from based on your needs and wishes. Let’s look at the advantages first.
The advantages of a trust
A trust typically does not have to go through probate court, like a will does. Therefore, it can save surviving loved ones time and money.
By avoiding probate court, you also help ensure that the terms aren’t in the public record. That means relatives you haven’t seen in decades or others can’t poke around to see who inherited assets instead of them or how much you had when you died.
There are many different types of trusts, so it’s relatively easy to find one that suits your goals. For example, maybe you don’t want an adult child or other family member getting their inheritance all at once. A trust can specify the terms of the disbursement. There are also spousal trusts and special-needs trusts to help you ensure that everyone in your family is taken care of and not dependent on other surviving relatives to get their share of an inheritance.
A revocable living trust is a common choice. It allows you to place your assets like your home, car and bank accounts in the name of the trust. You continue to own and control them while you’re alive, and then they’re distributed as you’ve instructed by your trustee when you pass away.
Why you still need a will
A will (typically a “pour over” will) encompasses any assets that may not be addressed in your trust. Dying without a will means that the court will determine how any unaddressed assets are passed down. A will can also cover other wishes, like guardianship for minor children.
An experienced attorney can help you choose the estate planning documents that best meet your needs. By taking an inventory of your assets and giving some thought to where you want them to go when you pass away before you meet with your attorney, you can help expedite the estate planning process.