There are several tools that an estate planning attorney has to offer clients when it comes to estate planning, including wills and living trusts. A will is a document that is drawn up where a person states how they want their assets and property divided when they pass away. When a person dies, the will is then placed in probate. Probate is the legal process where the validity of the will is confirmed – or denied – by the court.
As a probate attorney from Yee Law Group can attest, many clients do not want their estate to go through the probate process. For those clients, we often recommend living trusts.
A trust is a legal tool that allows an individual to possess property for the benefit of another. When a person sets up a trust and places assets or property into the trust, they stop being the owner of those assets or property, but they still maintain control over it. A trustee is chosen to control and oversee the trust, and at some point in the future, often upon the death of the person who set up the trust, the beneficiary who the trust is set up for will receive the assets.
Living trusts are a popular choice for many of our clients because you can transfer the assets or property from yourself, as the owner of the assets, to yourself, as the trustee. When you pass away, the assets of the trust will be distributed to the beneficiary and there is absolutely no requirement of the probate process.
Your estate planning attorney can help you set up a living trust, as well as prepare all the documents needed to transfer the property you choose into the trust. Some of the property our clients have placed in living trusts include money, stocks, bonds, vehicles, and real estate.
There are many benefits to a living trust. Some of the more common include the following:
- As mentioned above, using a living trust to leave assets to beneficiaries avoids the probate process. There is not delay in the transfer in the property with a trust, unlike probate, which can take up to a year or more before an heir receives their inheritance. There is also the expense of probate, which can be avoided with a trust. And the whole process is private, unlike the probate process which is entered into the public record.
- Control: With a living trust, you maintain complete control over the assets contained inside the trust. A living trust can be changed or canceled at any time. You are not locked into it. This also means you can use the funds for your own use if you choose.
- Tax relief: A living trust can often help lower the amount of estate taxes that are due when a person dies.
- Almost challenge-proof: Unlike a will, which people can contest, a trust is usually much more difficult to challenge.