This guide will summarize some of the common FAQs we get for estate planning.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a comprehensive document that has a trust, a will, durable powers of attorney (finance and health care), HIPAA, and schedules. Since the trust is the most important part of an estate plan, many attorneys will refer to an estate plan as a trust, or living trust.
What are the benefits to an estate plan?
There are multiple benefits to an estate plan. Some include probate protection, estate taxing protection (for married couples), and depending on the type of estate plan asset protection measures (referring to irrevocable trusts). Be advised that irrevocable trusts are not for everyone and do require giving up control of your assets. So please talk to an attorney before deciding what type of trust is appropriate for you.
Can I just create a will instead of a trust?
A will does not protect from probate, so many attorneys will recommend doing a trust. If you own property, a trust is definitely the way to go. The only exception is if you own property as "joint tenancy with right of survivorship." In this case the survivor will get the property.
Do I have to hire an attorney to create a trust, or are non-attorney websites sufficient?
Companies that state that you can create a trust, a corporation, etc. and also state that they are "not attorneys" are not held accountable if your document fails in court. If you decide to use a company that specifically states that they are not attorneys you cannot be sure of what you are getting. The thought that all trusts are the same is incorrect. The better trusts are created by attorneys that are up to date on estate planning, and focus on it as a practice area. A trust is a very tailored document and the best trusts are fully comprehensive, client tailored, and fully protective. This also means that you as the client can talk to the attorney that created it, ask questions about it's functionality, and also it's maintenance and upkeep. Trusts must be changed to reflect changes in your personal life, and congressional changes in law as well. A trust is one of the most important documents you will create for you and your family. Please use an attorney that you feel comfortable with to create the document for you.
What can I put into a trust?
A trust can hold real property, checking/saving accounts, and brokerage accounts. It can be the beneficiary to retirement accounts, and life insurance as well. However, there are different tax consequences to putting a trust as the beneficiary to a retirement account versus an individual. Please talk to an attorney about the best course of action for you.
Additional resources provided by the author
There are many blogs about estate planning on our website. Please feel free to read about estate planning there.
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