Have questions about estate planning? You’ve come to the right place! We recommend scheduling a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys in Grand Rapids, MI. In the meantime, check out our list of frequently asked questions.
Why is a will necessary?
The last will and testament is the cornerstone of every sound estate plan. A will directs the transfer of a person’s property upon passing. In some simple situations, a well-drafted will is sufficient to effectively and efficiently transfer assets of an estate. In more complex circumstances, a will provides valuable protection to ensure all assets are transferred into the trust.
A will should:
- Nominate a trusted individual as a personal representative to properly administer your probate estate.
- Nominate guardians and conservators for any minor children.
- Express your intentions regarding distribution to beneficiaries of assets titled in your name at death.
If I have a will, do I avoid probate?
No. Whether you have a probate estate is based on the title. It doesn’t matter if you have a will, a trust, or powers of attorney. If the title to the property was in the decedent’s individual name at death, the asset is subject to probate.
A few assets not subject to probate include:
- Jointly held assets (with rights of survivorship)
- Assets held by contract with correctly designated beneficiaries (such as life insurance, 401(k) plans, etc.)
- Assets held in trust
What is a trust?
A trust is an agreement, recognized by law, which governs the conservation and distribution of your assets. A trust is a very flexible tool that can be shaped more specifically to your desires. Most trusts can be amended or revoked at any time.
How does a trust work?
A trust works like a pitcher into which assets are poured. The assets held in the pitcher can then be measured and distributed over time, in accordance with your wishes, instead of being given to your beneficiaries all at once.
What are the benefits of a trust?
Avoid probate. A properly funded trust will shield assets from probate. Funding is both one of the most important and neglected aspects of estate planning with trusts.
Control assets (and children) from beyond the grave. Simple gifts will result in minor beneficiaries receiving those gifts in their entirety at the tender age of 18. Trusts can be used to delay distributions over a period of years. Trusts can also give a trustee discretion to withhold distributions from beneficiaries who are not going to use the gifts properly (such as a beneficiary who will use distributions to support a drug or gambling addiction).
Call to Start Your Estate Plan
If you are in need of a knowledgeable, experienced attorney that understands the nuances of the estate planning process, please contact Andrew Rassi at (616) 828-5375. You may also request a meeting through our website. Our estate planning lawyers in Grand Rapids, MI, would be more than happy to help!