So what is in an estate plan anyway? This post will discuss two important documents that you have likely heard of but may not be completely familiar with: wills and trusts.
Will –The most important goals of a will are to leave property to beneficiaries, and to nominate guardians for your children. In addition, you will nominate an executor to carry out your intentions. Each person will get their own will, even if they have a joint trust with a spouse. So, if you and your spouse have a joint trust, you each will have a separate will.
If you have an estate worth less than $150,000, typically you will just need a will. There are some drawback to having only a will. Even if you have a will, your loved ones may find themselves navigating through the probate process, if you have more than $150,00 in assets. Get more information on what Probate Court is in the blog post “What Is Probate Court And Why Do I Want To Avoid It?” You can also check out my free resource library if you want to use a quick form offered by the California State Bar - Free Estate Planning Resources.
In addition, as opposed to a trust, which is a private document, a will will be filed in probate court once the testator (will creator) passes. Thus, since a will will become public record, a will might not be the best choice if you highly value privacy.
Trust – A trust is a document whose main purpose is to avoid probate. By properly transferring your assets into the trust, there is no need to go through the probate process. It is a private document that does not need to be filed with the court (unlike a will). You transfer your biggest assets into the trust, allowing a personal representative to manage the assets in the event of death or incapacitation.
Think of a trust like a recipe. It lists all the ingredients, or your assets, and tells the personal representative what to do with them. It is highly customizable to your own needs, and can be set up to handle a variety of assets. As opposed to a will, a trust is better suited for homeowners, blended families, families with special needs children, and families with Assisted Reproductive Technology (or “ART”) issues. Wills are not designed to handle these complexities.
Please contact me for a complimentary consultation to discuss your options with regard to this aspect of estate planning.
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