Wills and Estate Planning

What is a Living Trust?

When creating an estate plan, know the differences between a will and a living trust. A living trust keeps you in control of your assets while you're alive and after you die.

What Is a Living Trust?

Understanding Revocable Living Trusts

When it comes to estate planning, people have long relied on a written will to pass their estate onto their heirs. Today, more people are looking into the advantages of establishing a living trust.

What is a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is a legal document that spells out how you want your assets to be handled before and after your death - who gets what, when, and how. It's called a living trust because it's established while you're still alive, and it is revocable because you can change or dissolve the trust at any time as long as you are mentally competent to do so.

What can a trust do that a will can't?

Unlike a will that goes into effect after your death, a living trust can help you effectively manage your assets while you're alive and after you die. A living trust can:

  • Help you avoid probate.

    Probate is a legal process whereby when you die, the courts will see that your debts are paid and your assets are distributed according to your will. Probate can be an expensive, lengthy process that could take years before assets are distributed to your heirs.

  • Protect your privacy.

    Probate is a public process, meaning that any interested party will be able to see what your assets are, how they are being distributed, and to whom. A trust is not public record; therefore, any and all transactions are kept within the trust.

  • Keep you in control of your assets.

    If you were to become incapacitated, the appointed successor trustee (that you selected) can help you manage your affairs without court intervention. And if at any time you dispute your incapacity, you can continue to remain in control by revoking the trust.

  • Help save on estate taxes.

    If you have substantial assets, a living trust may help reduce federal estate taxes. If you are married, your living trust can include a provision that will let you and your spouse use both of your exemptions, saving a substantial amount of money for your beneficiaries. However, a revocable living trust is not a strategy for reducing income taxes.

Deciding what's right for you

Both wills and living trusts are devices that you can use to provide for the distribution of your estate upon your death. Whether creating a will, a trust, or a combination of both that best fits your needs, depends on your individual circumstances.While a living trust is a popular alternative to the traditional will, you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each, review property laws for your state, and consult with a legal representative. or the other, and consult with a legal representative.

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