Wills and Trusts
A will is the easiest way to express your wishes after you’re gone. It is legal document that takes effect upon your death. A will can name guardians for minor
children, specify your funeral or memorial wishes, identify the distribution of your assets to specific beneficiaries and name the executor of your estate. If you die without a will, your estate will be considered “intestate” and will be distributed according to the laws of the state where you die. Wills become part of the public record and are typically subject to the probate process.
A trust is another estate planning tool that can be used in a variety of scenarios. You are the creator of the trust and empower a trustee to administer your wishes as to how and what your beneficiaries receive. The two most common trusts are revocable living trusts and testamentary/ irrevocable trusts. Revocable living trusts are created and funded during your lifetime and become operational only upon your death. You have the right to change the trust at any time and maintain ownership of the property held in trust until your death. Many individuals will retitle some of their assets (i.e., their home) in the name of the trust for the purpose of avoiding the probate process and to protect their privacy from public record.
Testamentary trusts are provided for in your will and take effect when you die. The will goes through the probate process and the trust is funded with the remaining assets of your estate. A trustee then distributes the assets in your trust in accordance with the trust document.