Nobody likes to think of leaving their loved ones behind, but it is an inevitable part of life that we will all face. Fortunately, wills and trusts allow people to ease the burden of their passing on their loved ones.
Wills and Trusts in Estate Planning
One of the most important steps that you can take in financial planning is to develop a plan for your estate in the event of your death or inability to manage your assets. While most people don’t like thinking about estate planning, it is an essential process to guarantee that your assets are given to their intended recipients.
When discussing your estate plan, it is important to decide if you want to create a will or a trust. Wills and trusts are both legal documents that dictate how a person’s assets must be distributed upon the person’s death.
If you are wondering what’s the difference between a ‘will and a trust?’ then you are not alone. While both wills and trusts have their advantages, it is important to understand their nuances so that you can choose the route best suited for your unique circumstances.
How a Will Can Help You
A will is a legal document in which a person specifies who they want to give their assets to — the beneficiaries — and how they want their assets to be divided among the beneficiaries upon the event of their death. A will automatically applies to all property that the creator owns, excluding joint-property and property owned via a trust or covered by a beneficiary designation or certain joint ownership that transfers at death.
Wills provide the benefits of being able to name a guardian for children if they are under 18 and being able to specify funeral arrangements. Additionally, they are relatively inexpensive to create, even with the help of an estate planning lawyer.
When a person creates a will they must designate an executor – a person who is responsible for executing the tasks of distributing the property according to the legally-mandated instructions in the will. It is important to include pertinent information in the will such as bank account numbers, life insurance policy numbers, and passwords to access the accounts and make the executor’s job easier.
Unlike a trust, a will must pass the probate process before the property is available for distribution. Probate is a court hearing in which a judge determines the validity of a will. While most wills pass in probate, it may be subject to a lengthy process if there are discrepancies in the will or if the judge has other reasons to doubt its validity. Since the probate process is a public hearing, it means that the individual’s private information will also be made available to the public.
A lengthy probate process amplifies the pain and stress of losing a loved one and a mistake in drafting the will can make it susceptible to a long hearing. In order to ensure a quick probate, it is highly recommended to hire a lawyer to ensure the will is lawfully dictated, especially for individuals with high-net-worth estates.
How a Trust Can Help You
A trust is a legal document that designates a “trustee” to manage the property included in a trust. A trustee can be a person, an institution, or a group of individuals who are responsible for actively managing the assets both during the person’s lifetime and/or after their death. A trust also includes beneficiaries, who are the people that will receive the assets.
Unlike a will, a trust does not automatically include all of the individual’s property and must be actively managed. Since a trust requires active management, it may be more expensive to create. Generally speaking, a trust is recommended for people who plan to make contributions to the trust throughout their lifetime, as doing this can have financial advantages such as future tax savings.
Another advantage of creating a trust is that it allows the trustee to manage the trust in the unfortunate event of a person becoming incapacitated and unable to manage their property.
Trusts also allow the property to bypass the probate process, thus making the distribution process more smooth and keeping the individual’s information private.
How LPEP Can Help You Plan Your Estate
LPEP specializes in high-asset estate planning in the Bay Area. Proudly serving San Jose and Silicon Valley, our team of reputable attorneys serve to protect your assets. We make it our goal to develop the best plan for your individual priorities, family circumstances, and finances.
If you are still uncertain of what your next steps in estate planning should be, or if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to set up a free 30-minute consultation with our reputable lawyers.