Far too many people automatically assume that a last will is the right asset transfer vehicle, but this is a shortsighted perspective. There are many different types of trusts that can be utilized, and some of them are ideal for people that are not extraordinarily wealthy.
The trust that is optimal for the widest array of people is the revocable living trust. These trusts provide several advantages, but we are going to focus on one aspect here.
If you were to use a last will to state your final wishes, the administrator would be the executor that you name in the document. The executor will have to identify and inventory all of the assets that comprise the estate to prepare them for distribution to the heirs.
In some cases, this is complicated because there can be many different ownership documents and financial accounts to run down. Even if it is relatively easy to locate them, it is a daunting administrative task.
During probate, the estate will be probated by the court. This process will typically take at least nine months, even if there are no estate challenges or other unusual difficulties. No inheritances can be distributed during this interim.
When a living trust has been established, the administrator is the trustee. Your trustee can be an individual that you know personally, but there is another option. Trust companies, the trust department of banks, and some law firms will handle trustee duties (including ours).
Granted, there are some costs involved when you use a professional fiduciary, but it can be worthwhile under certain circumstances.
When you fund a living trust, the trust will become the owner of the property. It should be noted that you do not have to put everything that you own into the trust. You would also have total access to trust assets while you are living, so you do not surrender control.
You would act as the trustee throughout your life, and in the trust declaration, you would name a successor trustee to assume the role after you die. When the time comes, it would be simple for the trustee to handle the duties, because all or most of the assets would be contained in the trust.
To account for assets that may be in your personal possession at the time of your death, you can include a pour-over will when you establish your overall estate plan. This type of will would allow your personal resources to be “poured over” into the trust after your passing.
Another aspect of the trust administration process that is very efficient is the avoidance of probate. The trustee would be able to distribute assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes, and the distributions would not be subject to probate.
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