The wife and I are in our mid-80s and preparing for the end times (for us!) An attorney that we don't really know strongly advises us to heavily use trusts as opposed to just wills, to distribute our estate. In MN at least, estate tax, because of dollar limits is not an issue. This atty says that probate is a big deal, time consuming and thus expensive, etc. Some other comments have suggested, "In MN, probate is no big deal." Any personal experience based comments would be welcome.
There's no way to predict how complicated your probate might be without knowing more about your situation but I can tell you that I often advise clients to use simple wills and the probate process unless there's a specific reason not to. Probate is typically more of a routine, bureaucratic inconvenience than a genuine problem to be avoided at all costs. The thing you'll need to consider is that the probate process takes a minimum of four months before estate assets can be distributed--that's the amount of time you have to wait after publishing notice to creditors to conclude that all valid debts have been presented to the estate. Trust administration can be as complicated and expensive as probate so there's no simple way to decide what's best for your situation. Using trusts is often more expensive than simple wills on the front end so you might be able to make your decision based on that. If your estate is solvent, the costs of administration will come from your assets so you don't have to worry about the costs being passed on to your heirs.
The first answer is a very good summary of the different factors involved when considered trust versus wills. I'll just add a few considerations. As stated, probate can be and often is "no big deal." However, there are a few circumstances when you want to avoid probate. Some examples would be: 1) if you have concerns about someone contesting your will or the distribution of your estate; 2) you own a farm or small business; 3) you own property in multiple states; and 4) privacy concerns about the public nature of probate court outweigh the added cost and administrative duties of a trust.
If these factors are not a concern, you likely would fall into the "no big deal" probate category. You should also keep in mind that you can put a beneficiary on most, if not all, of your assets so that it will pass to your beneficiaries directly (assuming that is acceptable to you). Keep in mind that you can always ask for a second opinion or look up your attorney's name on the mncourts website to see if he actually handles probate matters. http://pa.courts.state.mn.us/default.aspx.
This is not legal advice. The comments are general information based on the information presented, and may not be applicable to your situation. Contact an attorney in your area for legal advice.
I agree with my colleagues. It depends many factors such as the assets you have, how they are situated, and your family members. Many times clients don't need trusts and accomplish probate avoidance through POD beneficiaries on bank accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts. TODD for real estate work if you have one beneficiary to receive it. If you want 10 beneficiaries, a TODD is a bad idea. In that case, a simple probate (wills) or a revocable trust can accomplish the transfer of real estate nicely. You should get a second opinion and make the decision that is right for you and your family. All the bests, DWJ
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