For individuals who are contemplating estate planning matters, there may be some confusion about the benefits of establishing a will vs. a trust. Most people are likely familiar with wills and understand that a will can be used to express one’s wishes with regard to the distribution of assets and personal belongings. It’s important to note, however, that these same goals can be accomplished using a revocable living trust and, for many people, there are advantages for choosing a trust over a will.
Even in cases where an individual has a comprehensive and uncontested will, an estate will need to pass through probate. The probate process can be lengthy and costly. Additionally, legal documents that pass through probate become public record which means they can be viewed by anyone.
Conversely, upon an individual’s death, the contents of a trust remain private. While there are several types of trusts, one of the most basic and efficient is a revocable living trust. A living trust is established by an individual while he or she is alive. An individual, who elects to establish a revocable living trust, can make amendments to the trust at any point during his or her lifetime. Upon an individual’s death, the trust and its contents become irrevocable which means they cannot be changed.
While a will provides directives related to the distribution of an individual’s assets and belongings after death, a living will can also be used to account for the management of an individual’s finances in the event he or she becomes incapacitated. Additionally, a trust provides an individual more control over when and how assets and property are distributed. For example, a trust’s directives may call for the immediate distribution of assets or may include provisions that assets be distributed to a beneficiary at a certain age.
New York City residents who have questions and concerns about trusts and how a trust may be used to accomplish estate planning goals, should speak with an attorney.
Source: AARP.org, “Things You Should Know About Living Trusts,” William J. Lynott, September 15, 2010
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