CARING FOR THOSE YOU LOVE, AFTER YOU ARE GONE
One of the most important things we can do is to take care of those we love. And under our system of law, our ability to help those we love does not end in death. In the United States, we have the ability to set out in documents how we want our possessions and/or property distributed after we have left this world.
There are three methods of distribution of the property: by statute, by will, or by trust. If someone dies without a valid will, that is called dying “intestate.” When someone dies intestate, their assets are distributed in accordance with State Law. Unless you have a will or a trust, you have no control over what happens with your assets when you pass.
Wills and trusts can work together to direct the distribution of your assets after you pass. While having a will is important, it only avoids the problem of having your assets distributed in accordance with the Statute. When you die, the executor of your will (the person you designate to manage the affairs of your estate and distribute your property), must process your will through the legal proceeding called “Probate.” The process for probating a will varies slightly from State to State, but generally the executor petitions a Court for permission to distribute the assets. This means that each and every asset that is in your estate will be listed in a public document, along with your expressed wishes for the distribution of your estate. Not only is there no privacy, it can be costly. Submitting an estate through Probate can be costly in attorneys fees and court costs. Further, it can take considerable amounts of time–sometimes up to two years –because nothing can be done without the approval of the Court. So, while having a will is better than not having a will, there is yet an even better alternative–a trust.
Trusts work like wills in that they direct the distribution of your assets after you pass. However, unlike a will, the process is done in private (without the Court’s supervision) and can be done immediately because there is no need to wait for Court approval. Trusts are very flexible, as well, and can provide for unique situations, such as a “Special Needs Trust,” where one’s child has special circumstances that make a trust a better alternative than an inheritance. For instance, a trust can be established that allows the beneficiary to receive only a monthly allowance, rather than a single large payment. There are other reasons for establishing a trust, but the point is that a trust can accomplish virtually everything a will can accomplish, and can even accomplish more. There are numerous types of trusts, and they are extremely flexible so that they can be fashioned to suit your particular needs.
Having the right estate plan is an important part of taking care of the ones you love. Contact us and let’s discuss your intentions, so that we can develop a pathway to achieving the final expression for those whom you love.
See our July, 2014 Scafide Law Firm Advisor, “Is A Trust Right Form Me?”
At Scafide Law Firm, we’re here to help others achieve their dreams. It’s what we do. It’s what makes us different.