Most know how critical it is to create a last will and testament when estate pre-planning. Despite its name, however, a will isn’t the final document you need to ensure a smooth transferal of your earthly possessions to the next generation. Here’s a look at how a living trust smooths the way for the proper execution of your will.
How trusts work
Without a living trust, you risk sending your surviving family members through a drawn-out legal proceeding known as probate. These hearings first determine whether a will is valid. They then turn their attention to locating and valuing a decedent’s assets. Any outstanding bills and tax debts are paid. Finally, probate hearings make a determination on distributing whatever remains to those who are named in your will. Living trusts streamline the process, providing for a designated family member or friend to manage your property. They can then quickly resolve these end-of-life issues.
The very first requirement is finding an executor who you completely trust to handle this important process in your absence. Your executor should also be someone who is mature enough to deal with a very difficult assignment. If you can’t find the right person — or if the intention is to leave out all direct beneficiaries — then you can name a representative from your bank or trust company to handle things.
Setting them up
A person who you appoint handles everything that the court would slowly work its way through, transferring ownership to your intended beneficiaries and following any other instructions. Seek out the advice of an attorney who specializes in living trusts and wills, so that you can be assured that everything in these documents is legally binding. What if you change you mind? Living trusts are revocable, as long as you’re deemed mentally competent.
There is one notable downside. Living trusts are typically far more costly to set up than the average straight-forward will. In the long run, however, that additional cost will be worth it in your absence since your family won’t have to deal with probate. Be aware that some banks and mortgage companies require that any real estate be removed from the trust before refinancing. A pre-planning professional can walk you through the process. Also, be sure to name yourself and spouse as trustees in your living will, so you’ll remain in control of all assets before your death