About Estate Planning
Wills and trusts are the building blocks of estate planning. There are numerous considerations when crafting your legacy, and like good builders, we’re expert at ensuring that the process results in a solid foundation for your family’s future. That often means “constructing” the documents the way that best suits your unique situation, assets and desires. The following is a basic explanation of some of the terms and concepts we’ll discuss with you during our consultation.
Wills and the Process
A will is a legal document, and probate is the process that your will goes through upon your death in order to carry out your instructions contained in the will. Wills require the designation of a personal representative and your beneficiaries. The personal representative will be responsible for probate administration, and the beneficiaries will receive the property that you designate for them to inherit. We will help you decide which family member, friend, or professional is best suited to be appointed as the personal representative of your will.
Probate court oversees the administration of your estate. If you prepare your will with a legal professional, you will avoid pitfalls in authenticating it in court. Before your property is distributed, the personal representative of your will must attend to the debts of the estate:
- Creditors are paid for their claims
- Administration fees are paid
- Estate taxes are paid
Your beneficiaries will receive the property that you have assigned to them after this initial process of probate administration.
Revocable Living Trusts
Sometimes a revocable living trust is used to avoid the costs of probate. This type of trust takes effect during your life. You can retain control over the property you place in the trust by naming yourself as the trustee. Then you name a successor trustee to take over trust administration upon your death.
You may also set up sub-trusts for estate tax minimization:
- Marital trust
- Family trust
- Qualified domestic trust
We can help you set up a revocable living trust and show you how to transfer the title of your property to it. The property becomes unavailable for probate because it legally belongs to the trust.
Trusts and Transferring Assets
Even if you decide to create a living trust, you still need to have a will. A pour-over will is used to transfer assets into the trust, which is the will’s only beneficiary. This transfer can be necessary under the following conditions:
- You were unable to transfer all of your assets prior to your death
- Your successor trustees did not transfer your assets
- Mistakes were made in titling the assets
If you have minor children, you can also use a will to designate their legal guardians in the event of your death.
Check out our Resource Center for more information on Estate Law.