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Although some people use only a will to dispose of their assets upon death, others use revocable trusts, often known as “living trusts,” to achieve their estate planning objectives. Like a will, a living trust can be used to dispose of the bulk of a decedent's assets. With a living trust, however, you can avoid the hassle of a lengthy probate process. Plus, a trustee is available to step in and actively manage assets at the time of incapacity. A living trust can also help individuals to avoid multiple probate proceedings if they own property in multiple states.

Drafting a Living Trust

Drafting a revocable living trust involves the following three parties:

  • The Settlor: The person who creates the trust. The settlor can amend or terminate the trust at any time before death, when it becomes irrevocable. The terms of the trust typically remain private, and the opportunity for challenges by disappointed beneficiaries is lessened.
  • The Trustee: The person who holds title to the trust property and is in charge of managing it according to the terms established by the settlor. The settlor usually serves as the trustee while living, and then another person or trust company will serve as the successor trustee when the settlor dies or becomes incapacitated.
  • The Beneficiary: The person or entity entitled to receive the income or assets from the trust. Not only does the beneficiary obtain the income and assets from the trust but also benefits from careful management of those assets.

What Are the Benefits of Living Trusts?

While there are many reasons to include a living trust in your estate plan, most clients use them to:

  • Keep the disposition of their assets private and out of court
  • Sell trust assets without needing approval from the probate court
  • Avoid probate expenses
  • Hold investments for minor children
  • Manage and distribute funds for beneficiaries who don’t have financial expertise
  • Assign a successor trustee to manage assets in case of incapacitation

Should You Have a Will Alongside a Living Trust?

Having a living trust is a smart choice for managing your assets and avoiding probate. However, it doesn't eliminate the need for a will. Here's why:

  1. Assets Not in the Trust: A will covers assets not included in your living trust, ensuring they are distributed according to your wishes.

  2. Guardianship: If you have minor children, a will is crucial for naming their guardians in case something happens to you and your spouse.

  3. Specific Bequests: Wills allow you to specify who receives sentimental items or heirlooms, ensuring your intentions are clear.

  4. Executor Designation: Your will names an executor to manage assets not in the trust and handle probate matters.

  5. Clarity and Conflict Prevention: Having both documents reduces confusion and potential disputes among heirs, as the will can "pour over" assets into the trust.

A will complements your living trust by addressing various aspects of your estate plan, ensuring comprehensive coverage, and clarity in your wishes. Consider consulting an estate planning attorney for expert guidance in creating both documents.

Meet With Us to Get Started Drafting Your Living Trust

We make it our priority to simplify the legal process and prepare the documents clients need to reflect their unique goals. If you would like to establish a living trust, then please speak to our full-service law firm so we can assist with creating a trust, retitling assets, and changing beneficiary designations to implement your estate plan comprehensively.

For a consultation with Chipman Mazzucco Emerson, give us a call at (203) 902-4882 or fill out our convenient online form.

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