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The living trust—best of both worlds?

If you are beginning to think about estate planning, you probably have questions about everything from preparing a will to creating a trust. A family law attorney will be the first to tell you that your circumstances are unique; therefore, your estate plan will be unique, as well.  

You have a range of estate planning options to consider, one of which is a revocable trust, also called a living trust.

An overview

A trust is a fiduciary tool. It allows a third party to serve as trustee to hold your assets and ultimately, to distribute them to beneficiaries according to your specific wishes. You may decide to form a trust in order to avoid probate; your assets will be available to heirs much more quickly than if you only leave a will, which requires court validation and a time-consuming asset inventory.

Helping you now

Although a will only goes into effect after you die, a living trust works during your lifetime and continues after you pass away, which some think is the best of both worlds. You can name yourself trustee and retain control of your assets. At the same time, you can appoint a successor trustee who will step in if you should become incapacitated and can no longer manage your own affairs. If you recover from the health issue, you simply resume control of the trust.

Helping beneficiaries later

Your living trust continues after you pass away. Your trustee will manage the assets in your trust and distribute them per your instructions. Many people opt to allocate an allowance to children until they reach a certain age, and then provide them with the balance. There will be no probate and no court interference.

Other benefits

Your attorney can explain all the benefits, but among the reasons so many people choose to form living trusts are that they are easy to establish and maintain, they provide privacy and they can reduce or even eliminate estate taxes. Most important, perhaps, is that a living trust does not die with you and will continue to protect those you love.

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