Many people start the estate planning discussion by telling their lawyer what kind of documents they want, typically either a Will or a Revocable Living Trust along with a few other important documents. We believe this approach is backwards. It’s like going to the doctor with a broken foot and telling her how you’d like to treat it, whether you want surgery or maybe just a cast.
The right documents to plan your estate can only be determined by taking a look at your circumstances – the specifics of your assets, your goals, your loved ones and family circumstances. Once we explore your situation and goals, only then can an attorney make recommendations on how to meet your specific goals, given your specific circumstances.
There are some general guidelines that are helpful to understand regarding Wills and Revocable Living Trusts.
Last Will and Testament
A Will gives directions about how you want your assets divided upon your death. If you have minor children, it also nominates guardians for your children if you pass away before they turn 18. The Will does not prevent your estate from going through the probate process, it simply acts as a guide which the court will use if your estate goes through the probate process, or for your Personal Representative to carry out less formally if no probate is necessary. For more information about probate, see How to Avoid Probate.
A Will is not activated until you die. If you become incapacitated through an injury, illness or disease, the Will does not offer any help. In that case, there are other documents you might need and they may or may not be effective. For a full explanation of those documents and the pros and cons, see Incapacity Planning.
Revocable Living Trust
A Living Trust not only gives directions for how you want things divided upon your death, it empowers someone (your Successor Trustee) to carry out your wishes without court interference.
In addition, it empowers the person you choose to manage all of your affairs if you become incapacitated. No conservatorship means no lawyers or court process are necessary, they just step in to handle everything for you.
A Living Trust is usually more expensive to set up than a simple Will-based plan, but typically saves a lot of money if you become incapacitated and when you die.
For more information whether a Will or Trust is right for the foundation of your estate plan, register for one of our upcoming Estate Planning Workshops to get all the details or schedule a Personal Consultation today!
Schedule your Personal Consultation here, or by calling our office at 719-520-1474 or 303-736-6060