Wills & Probate

A will is a legal document that communicates your wishes about how to manage and distribute your property after your death. Most people make a will the primary way of distributing their assets. A will determines who inherits your property, the terms of the inheritance, and identifies an executor to supervise the terms of the will as it goes through probate.

Probate is the court procedure which determines validity of a will. Probate oversees the payment of creditors and distribution of assets. Even if there is no valid will at the time of death, the estate must still go through the probate procedure. That’s why it is important to consult an attorney.

Lawyers specializing in estate planning may be able to help you dispose of your assets without going through probate. A lawyer will explain the tax ramifications of probate and which assets can be transferred outside probate.

Trusts

Trusts are created in order to avoid probate administration and provide for special circumstances. A trust is a legal relationship protected by the courts in which one person, the trustee, holds a property interest for the benefit of another person. There are many uses for trusts, such as protecting assets from creditors, simplifying asset distribution and preventing beneficiaries from misusing assets. Trusts also enable you to keep the asset distributions private, since there is no public record of the transactions.

Revocable trusts let you manage assets while you are alive and distribute them after death, which may lead to a reduction in taxes. Revocable trusts can be altered, but irrevocable trusts cannot be changed without the agreement of all parties. Irrevocable trusts are usually created to preserve or protect assets. For this reason, irrevocable trusts are very useful in life insurance planning. Trust lawyers will help you evaluate your needs.