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Although your Last Will and Testament will provide the foundation for your comprehensive estate plan, you will likely incorporate additional documents and strategies into your plan to ensure that all your estate planning goals and objectives are reached. One of the most common additions to an estate plan is a living trust. Once used primarily by the wealthy as a way to control the family fortune, trusts have evolved over the years to the point where the average estate planner can benefit from the addition of a trust. Trusts are divided into two broad categories – living trusts and testamentary trusts. A living trust is a trust that can provide a wide variety of benefits to you now while you are still here as well as benefit your loved ones after you are gone. Living trusts have increased in popularity over the past several decades in part because of the numerous benefits they provide to an estate plan. Some of those benefits include privacy, control, asset protection and probate avoidance.
Wills are one of the most fundamental and important building blocks of an estate plan, but just because wills are a basic component of your legacy plan does not mean that making a will is easy. You want to ensure that you create a will that actually provides your family and assets with the protections that you need. Your will should be detailed enough to ensure that your wishes are respected and it should include the necessary clauses to facilitate the timely and efficient transfer of assets.
The death of a loved one is a mournful time period filled with grief and uncertainty. Understandably, the legal ramifications of a death are often overlooked at first. At some point, however, the decedent’s estate may need to be addressed by starting the complex and time-consuming process of probating their estate. If you were appointed to be the Personal Representative (a.k.a. Executor) of the estate in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament you will be tasked with opening the probate of the estate. Probate is the legal procedure that is often required following a death in order to ensure creditors are paid and the decedent’s assets are properly retitled. The primary goals of probate include:
Probate is a time consuming process even when an estate is relatively modest in size. If the estate includes valuable and/or complex assets it is imperative to properly probate the estate. Most Executors retain the services of an estate planning attorney to usher them through the probate process to ensure that estate assets are protected and the decedent’s wishes are honored.
If you have been named as the Trustee of a trust you have been appointed to an important position that requires knowledge, skill, and dedication to fulfill. As Trustee you have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust and obligation to honor the terms of the trust itself and. Some common duties and responsibilities you will have as Trustee include:
Like an estate plan, a trust agreement can be relatively simple or extremely complex. And, even a basic trust agreement can be time consuming for the Trustee to manage and administer. The more valuable the trust assets and the more complex the trust terms the more important it is to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist and guide you in your role as Trustee.
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