Every state has laws controlling what happens to your assets if you die and don’t leave instructions indicating what you want to happen to those assets. Those laws are called “intestate succession” laws. While they are designed to cover what people will want generally, they typically don’t come close to being what most people want to happen.
For example, state law might leave the assets equally to your children outright. You may prefer unequal shares for your children due to your situation. Also, you may prefer to have the assets held in trust. For example, a beneficiary might have special needs and an outright distribution could deprive them of needs-based benefits.
A Will is how you leave instructions to override the intestate succession laws. If you have assets in your name at death, they will be subject to probate and will be controlled by your Will, if it exists.
However, you can have your assets owned by a revocable trust. If you do that, your assets won’t be in your name at death and they won’t have to go through the probate process.
The probate process may be expensive and time-consuming and it’s almost always a public process. A revocable trust allows for streamlined management of your assets. While you’re alive and well, typically you’d be the trustee, in other words, the person managing those assets. Upon your incapacity, the person you’ve chosen as your successor trustee would step into that role. This incapacity protection can be invaluable and is much easier than not having a trust holding your assets.
Whether you’ve chosen a Will or a trust as the engine of your estate plan, it’s important to re-examine your plan periodically to be sure it’s doing what you want. Are you comfortable with the successor trustees who would take over in the event of your incapacity? Are you comfortable with who would get your money, when, and how?
Many things can happen in the course of a year. This is especially true in a year like this one! It’s good to take a look at your plan and make sure it’s still consistent with your wishes.
If you would like to learn more about the importance of estate planning, schedule a FREE consultation. Or click HERE to learn more about estate planning and trusts.
Bob Michaels is extremely passionate about providing the best possible legal experience for his clients, and focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, business, and real estate matters. Bob has been able to provide piece of mind and a solid foundation to many folks in the Puget Sound area over the years and wants to provide resources and relevant information whenever he can.