Estate Planning Law Firms
A will is an essential document that every adult should have and review on a regular basis. If you die without a will, your property and assets are distributed according to your state’s intestate succession laws and the court will decide who gets custody of your children. However, a will is not always enough to accomplish your goals after death. Trusts and other tools are used to keep property and assets out of probate so that they are distribute as quickly as possible to the beneficiaries of your choice. An estate planning law firm in your state can help you make sure that all of your estate planning tools are in compliance with state law and will be effective.
In your will you designate who receives your property, assets, and personal belongings when you die. You also designate who will raise your children and who will manage the money and property you leave to them until they reach the age of majority.
A will does not control everything. The laws in your state may overrule some of your decisions. Some states give the surviving spouse the right to a certain amount of your estate, and some states do not allow you to disinherit your spouse or children. Also, your will does not affect assets with designated beneficiaries or those that are controlled by titling.
Property governed by your will goes through probate. This can be a very lengthy and complicated process, depending on your circumstances and your state laws.
Trusts can give you more control than a will, and they are not subject to probate.
A revocable living trust transfers your assets into a trust and you are allowed to be the trustee. When you die, your assets are then distributed from the trust to your beneficiaries according to your wishes. The assets can go directly to beneficiaries or to trusts for them beneficiaries. You can change the terms of the trust or revoke it entirely at any time while you are alive.
A trust for your minor child will protect his or her assets. The guardian you appoint is not necessarily the trustee. You can set it up where the money goes to your child when they reach the age of majority or at a later age when you feel they will be able to handle the responsibility.
A special needs trust allows you to leave money to a disabled loved one without jeopardizing their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid benefits. Technically the money does not belong to them, but the trustee is required to spend it on their behalf for goods and services that benefit them which SSI and Medicaid do not pay for.
A pet trust allows you to designate money for your pet’s care and dictate how your pet will be cared for after you pass away.
Finally, assets with named beneficiaries are transferred directly to the beneficiary. You should consider setting these up with the proper beneficiaries as you go along, but you will need to update them if there are major changes in your life such as a breakup or the death of a beneficiary. Examples include:
- Pay on death or transfer on death accounts
- Life insurance with named beneficiaries
- Pension and retirement benefits with named beneficiaries
- Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
To learn more about estate planning, please search this directory for an established estate planning law firm in your area.