Certainly, you have heard people make reference to a will, sometimes called a last will and testament, and you have probably heard that you need one. But what is a will and what does it do? A will is a legal document that gives directions for the way you want certain things handled after your death. In a will, for example, you can name a guardian for your children, should you pass away before they turn 18. A will also specifies how you want your estate divided, and who it will be divided among. Your estate is all of your property and assets, including things like money, property, retirement accounts…anything of value that you owned when you died. The people you choose to receive or inherit those assets are called your beneficiaries. In your will you can name any beneficiaries you like, and leave out anyone to whom you don’t want to leave anything. If you die without a will, however, a court will decide who gets what and in what amounts, and will name a guardian for your children if they are still under 18. Dying without a will incurs extra costs and complications, and takes any control of what happens after you die out of your hands and puts it in the hands of the court system.

What is a Living Trust and Do I Need One?

While many non-lawyer advisors say that everyone should have a will, the question of whether you should have a living trust is a more important one. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement in which a trustor(you) gives another party, the trustee, the right to hold property or assets for the benefit of a third party, known as the beneficiary. A living trust is a trust that is created and funded while the you are still alive. There are many different kinds of living trusts that are created for many different purposes. Which kind of living trust is right for you is a question for an experienced estate planning attorney. The foundation of a powerful estate plan that will give you piece of mind is a revocable living trust, over which you’ll be the trustee, you’ll be the grantor, and you’ll be the beneficiary during your life. You’ll put your property into the trust, and at your death, the trust will remain alive and a new trustee will be appointed to do with your property what you said in the trust you wanted done.

What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Living Trust?

A will is a document that outlines your wishes after death and must be probated in order to be effective. Probate is a form of lawsuit that your surviving administrator or executor files at the courthouse. A living trust is a fiduciary arrangement that puts your assets under the control of a trustee (you while you are alive…and a person you trust after your death). Perhaps the easiest way to understand the difference is to think of a will as a letter you’ve written to tell your loved ones and the courts how you want things handled after you die, and to think of a trust as a container for property and assets, holding them in safekeeping for a third party. Having a will or a trust is not an either/or question. For a full understanding of wills and trusts and what will benefit you and your loved ones most, contact one of our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys.

If I have a Trust, Do I Still Need A Will?

The most effective estate plan for you is going to grow out of your private, detailed conversations with your experienced estate planning attorney. If you have a trust, your attorney is likely to also write a will that supports and complements the trust. For a more detailed understanding of wills and trusts and what will benefit you and your loved ones most, contact one of our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys.

Why Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

If you want peace of mind that if something terrible happens to you and you cannot speak for yourself or take care of your loved ones, then you need a careful and personalized estate plan that explains your wishes and will be followed so that your family will be taken care of. The best way to ensure that these things happen is to create a solid estate plan with the help of an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney who knows how to listen to your needs and create a plan that will meet your needs and protect your loved ones.