Planning your estate is one of the best things you can do not only for yourself, but for your family members and loved ones as well. Estate planning involves safeguarding your family by managing your property, distributing assets with minimal tax consequences, planning for your health concerns and end-of-life care, while providing for the financial support of your children and dependents.
A will is a legally enforceable document that details how a person wants their assets distributed and affairs handled after they pass away.
A will is a critical estate transfer document that is critical for anyone who owns property and/or has minor children. Property owners who do not want state law to determine how property is divided should have a will. It will allow for property to be transferred to someone other than a family member.
Creating a will is important for anyone who has minor-aged children at home, as it can detail the appointment of guardianship over the children. If a guardian is not appointed through a will at the time of death, surviving family will have to seek help in a probate court to have a guardian appointed. The process can be lengthy and the outcome may not be ideal.
A will allows a person to provide a fair amount of insight and direction over the handling of assets their beneficiaries will receive. An additional consideration for people with minor children is that a will can detail when and how a portion of the estate will pass to the minor children, with specific age considerations.
Wills are highly effective estate planning and estate transfer documents, but it is important to be aware that wills become part of the public record. An additional reality that is often viewed as a drawback is the necessity of probate court, which can make the final transfer of property a lengthy process.
While there is a fair amount of preparation a person can do on their own, it is important to seek legal counsel in the final creation of a will. Contact Z&S today to speak with an experienced attorney who can review your estate planning goals and determine the best strategy for you.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement in which a person gives another party authority to handle their assets for the benefit of a third party, their beneficiaries.
A trust is another effective method of estate transfer. Like a will, a trust defines the transfer of property after death. Often called a living trust, it is created and is active while the property owner, or trustor, is alive. The trustor maintains ownership of their property while alive and the trust remains revocable, meaning it may be changed during the life of the trustor.
Trusts are established for a number of reasons, most notably to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets and to ensure those assets are distributed according to the wishes of the trustor. Additionally a trust can help to save beneficiaries time by reducing paperwork and, in some cases, can help avoid or reduce inheritance or estate taxes.
Unlike a will, a trust allows estate to be transferred outside of probate court. Property can be passed immediately and directly to named beneficiaries by a person called a trustee. The trustee will be named in the document as the person responsible for the distribution of assets according to the wishes of the trustor as detailed in the trust document.
The contents of a trust document and the details of a person’s estate stay private rather than becoming part of the public record. That combined with the ability to avoid probate make trusts a valuable part of an estate plan.
Setting up a trust requires the involvement of an accountant or financial planner, but it is also important to seek legal counsel in the final creation and potential edits of a trust. Contact Z&S today to speak with an experienced attorney who can review your estate planning goals and determine the best strategy for you.
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