WILLS & TRUSTS Q&A
The following information is for general information purposes only and many of these topics are far more complex. For more information please contact the Zier Law Offices LLC.
What are the benefits of working with an attorney on a will or trust?
These documents are extremely important. They govern what will happen with your property upon your death. They also usually determine who will care for minor children of yours. They must be done correctly so that they are legal and carry out your wishes explicitly. An attorney will see to this. No two people or families are alike, and canned testamentary documents that are found on-line or are available for a flat price from some paper mill are truly “one size fits none.” An attorney will meet with you personally, ask the things needed to get you what you want, and then produce the appropriate documents , ensuring they are validly signed. You will receive counsel about what you should and should not do with your final, signed documents, and how they may be legally amended.
What is probate?
Probate is the process by which a deceased person’s estate is administered. This entails the collection and valuing of assets, payment of creditors and taxes, and distribution of property to those whom the deceased person directed by will should receive it. Probate occurs through the Court, but it may be informally or formally handled and the difference is significant. Under no circumstances should you seek to undergo probate without the advice of an experienced attorney.
What is the difference between a will and a trust as it concerns someone’s estate?
Wills and trusts are very different. A will is your testament directing what you want to happen with your property upon your passing. As noted above, it also may have extensive guardianship directives concerning any minor children of yours. When you die, the person you nominate to be your “personal representative” (executor) will apply to the Court for official authority to administer your estate according to your wishes.
A trust is a vehicle used to avoid probate. Like a will, the document which establishes the trust contains provisions outlining your wishes concerning disposition of your property. However, with a trust you transfer title to your property from yourself to the trust immediately upon its creation; thereafter, any property you acquire will be titled in the trust, not you. When you die, the person you picked to act as trustee of the trust at such time will have the responsibility to carry out your instructions about the trust property. If all of your property has been properly transferred to the trust before you pass, there will be no probate, as the trustee simply does what you directed him or her to do.
There are a number of important differences between wills and trusts, involving objective factors such as expense and tax considerations and subjective factors such as convenience. An attorney will parse these things out for you so you may make the choice best suited to your needs and desires.
When should I think about setting up a will?
Every American adult should consider having a will. This is so that a deceased person’s property will definitely go to those the person believes should receive it. In particular, anyone owning or having the prospect of inheriting significant property, and anyone with minor children, should have a will (or perhaps a trust—see above). Without such documents, there is the chance that taxes that could have been avoided will be payable. Moreover, property may end up in the wrong hands and children may be raised by the wrong people; generic state law, rather than you, will determine what happens. That is rarely anything but a very bleak prospect.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.