If you are just beginning to think about protecting your family by way of estate planning, you probably have several questions about what the process involves. One of the most common questions we get is whether a simple Last Will and Testament is enough or if a living trust is better suited to meet a family’s legal and financial needs.
The answer, of course, is that it depends. Everyone’s goals are different as are your family dynamics and financial situation. On a basic level, here are three things you should know when deciding if you need a will, trust, or possibly even both to protect your family and assets:
1) All assets do not have to go into your trust.
Assets that already have beneficiaries named, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, will usually pass directly to the beneficiary without needing to go through probate and, hence, do not typically have to be dealt with in your living trust. There are exceptions to this, however, as you may want to name the trust as the beneficiary of a policy if the beneficiary has special needs or you want to put an extra layer of protection around the money to keep it safe from reckless spending, creditors, a child’s future divorce, etc.
2) Your will is not private.
One of the many benefits of a trust is that it will not have to go through the Hillsborough County probate process. By comparison, a will is a public record and available to anyone that requests a copy. That means any scam artist in town can find out who in your family stands to inherit money and exactly how much. If you want to keep this information private, you’ll need to create a trust.
3) Your trust will not replace a will.
A will is necessary for the direct transfer of non-tangible assets and naming guardians for minor children. Most people who need a trust also create a basic will as part of their overall estate plan for these reasons. Your attorney can help you decide if this would also be helpful in your particular situation.
Putting your assets in a trust has several financial and personal benefits, but again, this legal tool may not be needed by everyone. The only way to know what option is best for you and your family is to talk with a qualified estate planning attorney who understands how to achieve your goals while dealing with the consequences of state and federal laws. If you’d like help getting started, we invite you to contact the Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall at (813) 438-8503 to schedule a consultation.