Why Having a Will or a Trust is Important and the Advantages/Disadvantages to both
I want you to consider a few reasons why we all need to have an updated Will or Trust in place.
I received a phone call recently from an acquaintance who had been in the hospital this past year after getting sick.
Thankfully he’s fully healthy again but, after catching up on life, he got down to the heart of the matter about the nature of his call: Neither he nor his wife had any estate planning in place in the event that something were to happen to either one of them and he wanted to change that immediately.
They’ve been married for almost 30 years and he told me they had simply never gotten around to it (…as we continued to talk he also mentioned that, in all transparency, he just hadn’t wanted to think about any type of ‘worst-case scenario’ such as either one of them dying, which probably contributed to never having ‘gotten around to it’).
It was his first time being hospitalized and it scared the wits out of him, which is absolutely understandable.
Ultimately, he wanted to make sure that both he and his wife had the proper estate documents in place to make certain that “they” were the ones determining where their possessions went rather than the government or the laws of the state.
And I think most of us would agree with that line of thinking.
I suspect many of us put off having a Will (or a Trust) designed, drafted, and executed for different reasons.
No matter how wise it is, the ultimate “reason” we’d need a Will or a Trust is not exactly a pleasant subject to address.
After all, realizing – or talking about -- our mortality is never the first thing on our to-do list.
If anything, it is right up there with paying taxes and getting a root canal.
On top of that, estate planning and the documents that go with it (Wills and Trusts being two of them) may seem complicated and overwhelming, which means we probably tend to neglect the conversation altogether.
At my law firm, the goal is to protect and preserve your most valuable assets while also educating you and your family every step of the way so that you feel empowered and can confidently embrace your estate planning strategy.
Put another way, we want to make sure that your family is taken care of if something were to happen to you and that your stuff is distributed exactly according to your wishes.
To that end, the purpose of this blog post is to discuss the difference between Wills and Trusts, and which is right for you.
Both Wills and Trusts are designed to let you decide exactly how you want your stuff divided and transferred to your chosen beneficiaries.
In some cases, they can be used together, but in other situations, it may be advantageous to use one over the other.
Let’s first talk about Wills for a moment.
Most people are more familiar with Wills and tend to like them for their simplicity and the fact that they are an inexpensive way to lay out wishes and elect someone (usually a family member) to handle all their affairs after they die.
A few pros and cons of using a Will include:
Establishes legal guardianship of your children if they are still minors
Can be amended during your lifetime
But does not cover incapacity (although we can draft other documents that will handle this, so there’s a workaround…)
A Will is also public information
If the Will needs to be probated that can take a few months and will normally require hiring a probate attorney (more legal fees, etc…).
Now let’s discuss Trusts briefly.
Trusts are becoming more common now that people are beginning to realize they aren’t just for the super wealthy. Remember, the term “estate” simply refers to everything you own – whether it’s $1,000 in the bank or $25,000,000 in real estate, stocks, and personal possessions.
Trusts can also offer greater flexibility than a traditional Will such as naming “successor trustees” and the ability to cover both disability and incapacitation.
A Trust is private information (not a “public record” that must be recorded with the county)
Allows someone to take over if you become incompetent without requiring court involvement
But, a Trust can be more expensive in the short term, although it can save a family money in the long-term since probate (and a probate lawyer) will not be required in most cases.
We all feel compelled to get things done in life at different times, for different reasons – and I get that.
For the gentleman I mentioned earlier, the catalyst happened to be a health-scare (but it could be different things for different people).
Whenever you feel the time is right I’d encourage you to get some basic estate planning in place because we never know when we’re going to need it.
This is common sense and I suspect you already know this, but, like anything else, not all estate-planning lawyers are the same.
Do some research on them.
Check their reviews on sites such as Google (not that it’s the ‘be-all-end-all’ but it’s a good place to start).
Then speak with a few and find one that you have a good feeling about.
One that you can trust and communicate with where it doesn’t feel “forced” or make you feel like “just another case”.
One that will give you the options that – ultimately – will allow you to make the best decision for yourself.
Once you find that lawyer – and you feel the time is right – I implore you to plan ahead with some well-drafted estate planning.
There are so many things in life that we are unable to control, but estate planning and getting our affairs in order is something that we can.