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What You Need To Know About Trusts And Wills

Estate planning is something very important in families to ensure that your wishes are met after your passing. It’s never too early to begin drafting a will or discussing a trust with an attorney to plan out how your assets and your funds will be distributed and what steps your loved ones can take to make that happen. When searching for this kind of help, it is best to look for “who is the best probate lawyer in my area” according to our friends at the Brandy Austin Law Firm

The best probate lawyer will be able to explain to you that there are differences between wills and trusts, and it’s important to know the difference to help you make an informed decision on how you want to plan your estate. The main difference between a will and trust is that a will is a simple document that you can draft on your own that gives instructions on how to distribute your estate whereas a trust is a more complex document that an attorney will help you draft and it ensures that your assets go to a specific beneficiary. 

First, let’s discuss wills. There are many types of wills but the main two that we’ll focus on are simple wills and living wills. A simple will is just that, simple. When you draft your will, you are not legally required to have an attorney help you, but having an attorney help guide you through the requirements will ensure that your wishes are carried out after death. Your will lists how you want your estate to be distributed and who you want it to be distributed to. You can list whoever you want to, whether that be your spouse, your children, a family member, or anybody else you wish to leave assets to. If your children are minors then you are also able to list who you 

would like to receive guardianship of your children. A living will, on the other hand, discusses medical treatment and procedures which allows you to request or refuse certain medical procedures in the case that you are unable to voice your own preference at the time. An additional option for you would be to name a person to make decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions. In that case, you would probably want to have previously discussed your medical preferences with them to ensure that you are only receiving treatment that you approve of. 

Trusts are typically drafted with an attorney and although some state laws do not require notarization of a trust, it is good to have your trust notarized anyway. When it comes to trusts, they can also be broken into multiple categories. The two main ones to focus on are testamentary trust and a living trust. A testamentary trust is based on your last will, meaning that it will only come to be after death. This kind of trust does not avoid probate, which is a judicial process that basically “proves” a will and solidifies it as a valid document of the last testament of the deceased. After death, testamentary trusts do not avoid probate, but living trusts do. The reason for this is because a testamentary trust is not specifically validated by the deceased since it is made based off of their will and still needs to be validated through probate. A living trust does not need to be validated through probate because it is information directly from the source, there’s no question about it. Both testamentary and living trusts are revocable trusts, meaning that they can be changed and edited at any time or possibly even canceled. Irrevocable trusts are not able to be easily altered like that, once the conditions are laid out they are then set in stone and you’re not able to easily change them This may seem like a downside but a benefit to an irrevocable trust is that they are not subject to estate tax. Once the assets are transferred to an irrevocable trust, they are no longer part of your estate and you are not charged estate taxes on them. 

Now with the information regarding wills and trusts, it’s easier to compare and contrast the two. Both wills and trusts discuss your wishes for after your death, whether that be medical procedure refusal or estate planning and beneficiaries. All wills need to go through a probate process except for specific circumstances. Living trusts however do not need to go through the probate process. Both wills and trusts can be revocable, but all wills are revocable and not all trusts are revocable. Your attorney can help guide you through this process of estate planning if you have specific questions, but having somewhat of an understanding is important before beginning any legal process. 

There are many pros and cons to both wills and trusts depending on the contents of your estate and your personal preference. Not every estate is the same and not every person prefers the same process, but through research and the help of your attorney you can decide how you’d like to plan your estate to help benefit your future.