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Wills, Trusts, Estates: What’s What?

“First, why is a trust better than a will? Can I serve as the trustee? Where do my kids get a copy of the trust after I die?”

It is important to understand that every person’s situation is different. Therefore, trusts aren’t necessarily “better” than wills. They are different types of estate planning tools with different features and are used to accomplish different things, says in Estate Planning: Distinct differences between wills and trusts.”

A will is a document that provides instructions regarding your final affairs: what to do with your property after death. It also enables you to nominate the person you would choose to carry out your wishes—your executor—and if you have minor children, who you want to rear them—a guardian.

The will is not used for anything during your lifetime and becomes effective when you die. In most cases, it needs to be presented to a court. The presenting of the will to a court and the appointment of a personal representative is known as probate.

Trusts are different. A trust is a legal entity that can own property and provide certain benefits to the beneficiary. Think of a trust as a box in which you place certain assets. You don’t own the assets—but you do own the box.

In most cases, the creator of a revocable living trust is also the beneficiary and the trustee. There’s no difference in how you address property transactions, other than how you transact business. To sell a home, the deed is signed by the trustee, rather than the individual, because the trust owns the home.

The biggest difference? Certain trusts are effective during the lifetime of the person. Some trusts only become active when the person passes: a testamentary trust. Most trusts have powers, once they are set up. The will only becomes active, when a person passes away.

People like trusts because they think that trusts will help them avoid the probate process. However, trusts can also offer confidentiality and some protection, albeit limited, from creditors.

Trusts are not filed anywhere or recorded, so your children will probably only get a copy of the trust from you, while you are alive or from your estate planning attorney, who should maintain a copy.

An estate planning attorney will be able to discuss the different types of trusts, what functions they serve and whether your situation requires the use of a trust. With or without a trust, everyone should have a will, power of attorney and a healthcare directive. An estate planning attorney can make sure that you and your family have everything appropriate for your unique needs.

Reference: (Jan 21, 2018)Estate Planning: Distinct differences between wills and trusts

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