Most people have one goal in creating a will or trust- to protect and benefit their family. Wills and Trusts are helpful tools to meet this goal; but they function in different ways.
A Will is a document that is drafted to be effective after you die. Wills list out all the “who’s” and “what’s” regarding how your property will be distributed. The Will also designates a person to manage the estate and distribute the property according to the wishes described. In some situations, such as leaving property to young children, a will is especially important as it allows the parents to appoint a guardian. A Will is an important document that effectively protects your property; but it has its downfalls. The distribution of property listed in a will requires that the family goes through the probate process to dispute any claims against them, which can become lengthy and costly. The probate process is also available in court records, meaning it makes the distribution of your estate public knowledge.
Trusts are unique from Wills because they are effective once they are created rather than after the creator’s death. A Trust can function in many different ways, depending on the type of trust created. One of the most common forms of a Trust is a Living Trust; which can be changed, modified, or revoked entirely. After the creator’s death, an appointed trustee has the duty to manage the Trust In accordance with the document. A Living Trust is often used to protect more high value property and is a helpful tool to avoid the probate process. This is especially helpful if you have property in multiple states because it allows you to avoid the possibility of probate in each state. Although there are many benefits to a Trust, there are also unfavorable characteristics including a more complicated process to establish, longer opportunity to contest the validity, and the need for an additional Will for all property not included in the Trust.
Every individual’s property and wishes are unique, which makes determining whether a will, trust, or combination of the two is in their best interest. The attorneys at Simpson, Jensen, Abels, Fisher & Bouslog, P.C. are experienced in handling complex estate issues. Contact us at (515) 288-5000 to discuss your Will or Trust with our firm.
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