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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.