Estate planning is one of those tasks people tend to put off. In fact, only 32% of adults have a will. It is never too early to begin planning for when you are gone, but it can be too late.
Perhaps you have figured out that having a will or trust will ensure that your wishes are carried out the way you want them to be. Or maybe you are unfamiliar with wills and trusts and are not sure whether you need either of them at all.
For nearly three decades, attorney Robert Taylor-Manning has helped clients in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, determine what estate planning tools work best for them. He is dedicated to helping clients make informed decisions about how they leave their legacies behind.
Failure to formalize your wishes for your estate — either through a will, trust, or both — will leave those decisions to the probate court when you are gone. While having an estate plan is particularly important for older adults, severely ill people, and parents with minor children, every adult aged 18 and older should consider working with an estate planning attorney.
It is wise to rely on the counsel of an experienced attorney to make sure documents are drafted and executed correctly so they are recognized by the law. This is no time to find a boilerplate will or trust online and hope it will be lawful when the time comes to use it.
Furthermore, a will or trust will provide you peace of mind, knowing that your loved ones will be able to grieve without the stress and anxiety of trying to handle your estate.
A will is a testamentary document that appoints an executor, revokes or revises a previous will, nominates a guardian, and specifies the distribution of your estate. A will can also exclude or limit the right of individuals to receive your property, even if they would be beneficiaries under the law of intestate succession.
As with a trust, you can revise your will if you wish and name the beneficiaries of your estate. Some of the advantages a will has over a trust is that it is relatively simple to create and it allows you to name an executor or personal representative to carry out the will’s provisions and to instruct how debts and taxes are paid. A will also allows you to name guardians for your minor or incapacitated children and specify people to manage their property.
Two key disadvantages wills have is that they must go through probate and can be challenged in court. Challenges may provoke the court to appoint a conservator to manage the distribution of your estate. Also, once in probate court, your will becomes a public document.
A living trust establishes a fiduciary relationship between you, a trustee, and the beneficiaries of the trust. You assign a trustee to manage the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. While you are living and capable, the trustee is often you. However, you name a successor trustee to assume that role upon your death and to serve in that capacity until all assets of the trust have been distributed according to your wishes.
A trust is not subject to probate, is protected from court challenges, and avoids any need for a conservatorship. You are also able to maintain your privacy with a trust because it avoids probate.
The major disadvantage of a trust is that you cannot name a guardian for your minor or incapacitated children or an executor. Trusts can also be complicated to create, depending upon the amount and type of assets you have. You must make sure that any titled assets, such as real property and vehicles, are titled to the trust and not to you personally.
There are multiple factors to consider when choosing which estate planning documents are right for you. If you have assets and want your estate to avoid probate, potential challenges, and retain privacy for you and your beneficiaries, a trust is the best tool. However, if you have minor children and you want to be the one who makes the critical decision about their guardian, a will is the proper vehicle.
For many people, especially people with young children, having both a will and a trust might be the way to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you want them to be.
An estate planning attorney is the best source of information to help you navigate the intricacies of an estate plan. Even if you have only a few assets, like a home, a vehicle, or a checking account, you should rely on the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure documents are drafted and executed correctly so they are recognized by the law.
Give yourself, and your loved ones, peace of mind. Do not put off getting answers to your important questions. Robert Taylor-Manning is ready to guide you and your family through the details of the estate planning process. If you live in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, or Walla Walla, Washington, or Portland, Oregon, call today and schedule a consultation.