The estate planning process is what you make of it. Its customization is its greatest strength, but it can also be its greatest weakness. This is because in order to create the estate plan that’s best for you, your estate, and your loved ones, you need to fully understand your estate planning options, what they entail and how they can help you and your family.
But that’s why legal teams like ours are here to help. An attorney who is experienced in estate planning can advise you of your options so that you can make the fully informed decisions that are right for you. For example, even though a lot of people forego trusts altogether in their estate plans because they don’t know how to properly maintain them, there are ways to make this process easier for you.
Using a living trust
One option is to use a living trust. Here, you relinquish ownership of assets to a trust while you’re still alive, but you still get to enjoy those assets as if you own them. By placing assets in the trust, you can ensure that they bypass probate, which can save your estate and your family a lot of time and money. It can also help prevent familial infighting over assets since your trust will clearly identify beneficiaries.
However, the trust only provides protection to assets that are in the trust. You might think that means that you constantly have to revisit it, which may be true to a certain extent, but you can also use a pour-over will to assist you.
What’s a pour-over will?
A pour-over will is a will that serves as a catchall, specifying that any assets that you didn’t place in your living trust were meant to be placed in the trust. As a result, at the time of your passing, those assets that are outside of the trust will automatically be transferred to the trust. Again, this allows those trusts to bypass the estate process, and it makes maintaining a trust easy.
Why not just use a normal will?
A basic will might be right for you, but it may not give you the full protection that you otherwise could enjoy. Your will might end up trapped in probate for longer than expected, and you may forget to update your will so that it lines up with your wishes. Both circumstances can lead to trouble.
And if your basic will is found to be invalid for some reason or you simply forget to create one, your assets will be subjected to intestate succession, which may lead to distribution that’s contrary to your wishes. This can be especially true if you have complicated family dynamics, such as being part of a blended family or having poor relationships with your close relatives.
What estate planning vehicles are right for you?
The answer to this question really depends on your circumstances and what you hope to get out of the estate planning process. If you hope to keep it simple and leave your assets to your spouse and your children, you may need nothing more than a basic will.
However, if you want to be more intentional with your estate plan to ensure that the proper loved ones inherit your assets, and those assets remain as protected as possible, you may need to consider using one or more trusts. The same holds true if you want to motivate your loved ones to act in a certain way or if you want to support a charitable organization.
Fortunately, you don’t have to try to navigate the difficulties of the process on your own. Instead, you can turn to an experienced law firm for assistance.