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Wills and Trusts Reviewed

Many people believe that wills are only for the aging, and trusts are only for the wealthy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Whether you are a young couple with minor children, an individual with some personal property you would like taken care of at your death, or an elderly person trying to get your estate in order, wills and trusts are an important part of anyone’s personal financial organization and planning.
There are many resources I can recommend to receive good information regarding the establishment of will and/or trusts.  Following is information from the sites I like the best, including www.nolo.com and  www.easylegalplanning.com.  In addition, pricing through these organizations is extremely competitive, especially when compared to an attorney you meet with one-on-one.
Here’s a run down of what is recommended through these and other Internet sites:
Who Needs a Living Trust?
Living trusts have a distinct advantage over wills when it comes to avoiding probate. Probate, the process of court-supervised asset distribution at a person’s death, often involves a significant amount of time as well as attorney and court fees, as reported by Nolo. But the assets that are put in a trust are not subject to probate and go directly to beneficiaries. Additionally, although probate court proceedings are public records, trusts are private documents which leave the details of a person’s private life, their beneficiaries, and the assets they have confidential. And according to AARP, a living trust can substitute as a power of attorney if the owner of the trust becomes unable to manage financial affairs through illnessLegalAgreements or disability. Because of all these advantages, anyone can benefit from having a living trust.
Be aware, however, that there are significantly more legal expenses in creating a living trust than a will. And contrary to what some people believe, a living trust doesn’t provide any protection from paying property taxes.  A drawback of living trusts is that they can be difficult to modify, states Nolo. While a trust can be created without a lawyer, one that is drawn up by a lawyer can cost more than a thousand dollars. Even with a trust, it’s a good idea for an individual to write up a standard will to use as a back up.
Who Can Benefit from a Will?
Because trusts are more expensive to put in place, some people opt to create a simple will, which designates what the person wants done with their property at death. It gives some direction to the family and the court in terms of asset distribution, however, a will does have to be probated in court, or “proved” and this can take time and money. Couples with minor children should always have at the very least, a will in place that dictates who will become legal guardian of their children should they both pass away at the same time.  Many couples assume that if they were both to die  that family would be able to take over the care of their children automatically. Instead, children of deceased parents become wards of the state until legal issues with family can be sorted out in court. Parents’ personal wishes mean nothing after death without a will in place. Therefore, if you are a parent of minor children, do not wait another day, get at least a will in place immediately. Later you can work on creating a trust that will be private and not require probate, but for now make sure you at least have a will in place to protect your minor children!
How Are Living Trusts Administered?
“Owners of living trusts often name themselves and their spouses as trustees so they can maintain full control over the trust and change assets and beneficiaries as needed,” notes AARP. The AARP further states that children are often named as successor trustees. Living trusts can specify exactly how and when assets are passed on to beneficiaries upon the owner’s death. Owners of living trusts have the flexibility to dissolve them anytime for any reason.
According to LegalZoom, because the trust doesn’t have to be probated, the successor trustee can begin making distributions shortly after a person’s death, and the contents of the trust, as well as the directions for distribution, do not need to become public knowledge. In addition, the appointed trustee pays any bills incurred by the trust. Financial assets such as stocks, bonds and checking accounts must be transferred to the trust fund accordingly. Trusts can also be worded so the successor trustee can take over managing the fund if the owner of the living trust becomes incapacitated.
To decide whether or not a living trust is necessary, an individual should consider his age, his assets and his marital status, notes Nolo.

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